Prevalence of symptoms of childhood asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and eczema in the Pacific: The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC)

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The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) has provided valuable information regarding international prevalence patterns and potential risk factors for asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and eczema. However, the only Pacific countries that participated in ISAAC Phase I were Australia and New Zealand, and these included only a small number of Pacific children. Phase III has involved not only repeating the Phase I survey to examine time trends, but also to include centres and countries which are of interest but did not participate in Phase I. The ISAAC Phase III study was therefore conducted in the Pacific (in French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Tonga, Fiji Islands, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tokelau Islands and Niue). The overall prevalence rates of current symptoms (in the last 12 months) were 9.9% for asthma, 16.4% for allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and 10.7% for atopic eczema. The prevalence of current wheezing (9.9%) was generally much lower than that has been observed in Pacific children in New Zealand (31%), but there was considerable variation between the various Pacific centres: Tokelau Islands (19.7%), Tonga (16.2%), Niue (12.7%), French Polynesia (11.3%), Cook Islands (10.6%), Fiji Islands (10.4%), New Caledonia (8.2%) and Samoa (5.8%). The reasons for these differences in prevalence across the Pacific are unclear and require further research. The finding that prevalence levels are generally considerably lower than those in Pacific children in New Zealand adds to previous evidence that children who migrate experience an altered risk of asthma as a result of exposure to a new environment during childhood.

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