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Respiratory symptoms, asthma, exercise test spirometry, and atopy in schoolchildren from a Lima shanty town


BACKGROUND Little is known about the associations between symptoms of asthma, pulmonary function tests, and atopy in developing countries. While asthma in children is often associated with atopy, some studies of wheezing illness have found little or no association, leading to suggestions that there are subgroups of wheezing illness. The ISAAC study recently reported that the prevalence of reported asthma symptoms in Lima, Peru was among the highest in the world, but did not report on the atopic status of the subjects.

METHODS A cross sectional survey was conducted of children aged 8–10 years who had previously participated in a cohort study of respiratory and diarrhoeal illnesses in infancy. Questionnaires were administered asking about respiratory symptoms and asthma diagnoses, pulmonary function tests were performed before and after exercise on a treadmill, and atopy was determined from skin prick tests and specific serum IgE levels.

RESULTS A total of 793 children participated in the survey. The prevalence of asthma related symptoms in the last 12 months was 23.2%, but only 3.8% of children reported a recent asthma attack. The mean differences in pretest percentage predicted forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) were 8.1% (95% CI 2.4 to 13.8) between children who did and did not report an asthma attack in the last 12 months, and 5.3% (95% CI 2.8 to 7.9) in children who did and did not report respiratory symptoms. The corresponding differences in mean percentage fall in FEV1 after exercise were 3.1% (95% CI –1 to 7.1) and 5.1% (95% CI 3.4 to 6.8). Recent asthma or respiratory symptoms were not associated with atopy in this population (odds ratios 1.29 (95% CI 0.56 to 2.97) and 0.91 (95% CI 0.61 to 1.37), respectively).

CONCLUSIONS Most asthma in these children was unrecognised and mild. Asthma and asthma symptoms in this population do not seem to be related to atopy.

  • asthma
  • atopy
  • schoolchildren
  • Peru

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