Introduction The prevalences of childhood asthma, eczema and hayfever have been recorded in our local population since 1964. The prevalence of a lifetime history of asthma rose from 4% in 1964 to a peak of 28% in 2004 before falling back to 22% in 2009. Wheeze in the past 12 months fell from 19% in 2004 to 16% in 2009. Lifetime prevalences of eczema and hay fever were approximately 5% in 1964 and had risen to 30% and 25% in 2004 and 2009. Here we present the results of our 2014 survey where we tested the hypothesis that eczema and hayfever prevalence will have followed the earlier trend for asthma and fallen since 2009.
Methods Children aged 9 to 12 years attending local primary schools were eligible. The questionnaire used in previous surveys was distributed to children by teaching staff, completed by parents at home and returned directly to the researchers.
Results Forty-seven schools were invited to participate of whom 41 took part. There were 4175 questionnaires distributed and 1378 returned (33%). The mean (SD) age was 10.9 (1.1) and 50% were boys. A lifetime history of asthma was reported in 17%. Lifetime prevalences of eczema and hay fever were 31% and 30% respectively. Wheeze in the past 12 months was reported in 13%.
Conclusions The proportion of children with a history of ever having had asthma and of recent wheeze continues to fall in our population at a time when the prevalences of eczema and hayfever remained static (see Figure). There was a low response rate in this survey and the results should be interpreted with some caution but the findings suggest different underlying mechanisms for asthma and other “allergic” conditions.