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Respiratory symptoms and home environment in children: a national survey


BACKGROUND Respiratory diseases are common in childhood and may lead to chronic disease in adult life; environmental factors probably play an important part in their causation.

METHODS A survey of respiratory symptoms in children aged 12–14 years was conducted throughout Great Britain as part of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). Information was obtained on certain aspects of the home environment in order to assess their importance as risk factors.

RESULTS The response rate was 79.3%, and 25 393 children in 93 schools participated. In a multiple regression analysis, wheeze was reported more often in non-metropolitan areas and in association with active smoking, passive smoking, the presence of a furry pet, bottled gas, paraffin, and other unusual heating fuels; small regional differences persisted. Current smoking, previous smoking, and passive smoking accounted for 10.4%, 6.8%, and 6.5%, respectively, of wheezing in the past 12 months, and furry pets accounted for 5.0%. Cough and phlegm were associated with active and passive smoking and with the miscellaneous fuels; similar associations were found for rhinitis, but were less consistent for rhinitis occurring in spring and summer. Gas cooking showed little association with respiratory symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS Passive as well as active smoking is an important cause of respiratory symptoms in adolescence. Pets seem to increase the risk of wheeze and rhinitis, and fumes from certain unusual heating fuels may have adverse effects. Home environment and geographical location have independent effects on the prevalence of respiratory symptoms.

  • asthma
  • wheeze
  • cough
  • rhinitis
  • housing
  • smoking
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