Open Access Research article

Prevalence and co-occurrence of parentally reported possible asthma and allergic manifestations in pre-school children

Kristina Bröms12*, Dan Norbäck3, Margaretha Eriksson1, Claes Sundelin4 and Kurt Svärdsudd1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

2 Centre for Clinical Research Uppsala University/County Council of Gävleborg, Gävle, Sweden

3 Department of Medical Sciences, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

4 Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Paediatrics, Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:764  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-764

Published: 16 August 2013



The aim of this study was to make an in-depth analysis of the prevalence and co-occurrence in pre-school children of possible asthma and atopic manifestations.


In Sweden 74%-84% of preschool children, depending on age, attend municipality organised day-care centres. Parents of 5,886 children 1–6 years of age, sampled from day-care centres in 62 municipalities all over Sweden, responded to a postal questionnaire regarding symptoms indicating prevalent possible asthma, allergic rhinitis, eczema, and food, furred pet and pollen allergy and other data in their children. Possible asthma was defined as any of the four criteria wheezing four times or more during the last year, physician diagnosis and current wheezing, ever had asthma and current wheezing, and current use of inhalation steroids, all based on questionnaire responses.


The overall prevalence of possible asthma was 8.9%, of eczema 21.7%, of rhinitis 8.1%, and of food allergy 6.6%. There was a highly significant co-occurrence between possible asthma and all atopic manifestations, 35.7% having any of the manifestations. Presence of pet allergy was the manifestation showing the closest co-occurrence with presence of possible asthma, presence of pollen allergy with presence of rhinitis, and presence of food allergy with presence of eczema. Assessed from plots of age-specific prevalence of possible asthma, rhinitis, eczema and food allergy, the prevalence of all manifestations increased from one to three years of age and then decreased, except for rhinitis where the prevalence increased until six years of age, indicating no specific ordered sequence.


Parentally reported possible asthma, eczema and food allergy had a curvilinear prevalence course across age with a maximum at age 3, while rhinitis prevalence increased consistently with age. Co-occurrence between possible asthma and atopic manifestations was common, and some combinations were more common than others, but there was no evidence of a specific ordered onset sequence.