BACKGROUND: Primary health care workers have reported an impression that asthma is commoner among Asian than European children, and a cross sectional survey was designed to compare the prevalence in Asian and European children. METHODS: The survey was carried out in children aged 7-11 in eight primary schools in Southampton. Four schools contained predominantly children of European ancestry, two contained predominantly Asian children, and two contained a mixture of ethnic groups. Data were collected by means of parent completed questionnaire on recent asthma symptoms, diagnosis, morbidity, and treatment from 759 European and 274 Asian children. RESULTS: The prevalence of reported wheeze in the previous 12 months was higher among European (19.6%) than Asian children (11.9%), as was the prevalence of a night cough (European 64.2%, Asian 42.3%). Although the prevalence of diagnosed asthma was higher in European (12%) than Asian (6.2%) children, a slightly higher proportion of Asian than European children with current wheeze had visited their doctor (European 66.9%, Asian 78.1%, not significant) or been admitted to hospital for wheezing (European 4.8%, Asian 6.5%) in the previous 12 months. CONCLUSIONS: This study failed to demonstrate a higher prevalence of asthma among Asian than European children in Southampton.
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