European Respiratory Journal vol:19 issue:6 pages:1026-34
Previous studies have suggested that asthma prevalence is generally lower in the Middle East than in more developed countries. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence and severity of asthma and asthma symptoms in schoolchildren in the Ramallah District in Palestine. In the autumn of 2000, 3,382 schoolchildren aged 6-12 yrs were surveyed in 12 schools, using the International Study for Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC)-phase III, parents-administered translated questionnaire. The crude prevalence rates for "wheezing-ever", "wheezing in the previous 12 months", and "physician-diagnosed asthma" were 17.1, 8.8 and 9.4% respectively, with urban areas having higher prevalence rates than rural areas. Within urban areas, refugee camps had higher prevalence rates than cities. Yet, within the rural areas, the 12-month prevalence was lower in the deprived villages than other residences. Place of residence remained significant for asthma and asthma symptoms, after adjusting for sex, age, and place of birth. To conclude, children from refugee camps appear to be at higher risk of asthma than children from neighbouring villages or cities. The prevalence of asthma and asthma symptoms in Palestine appears to be close to that of Jordan, but it is much lower than Israel, and lower than some other countries in the region, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and more developed countries. This initial study is a baseline for a study on lifestyle and environmental determinants for asthma among Palestinian children.