Residential exposures are recognized risk factors for asthma, but the relative contribution of specific indoor allergens and their overall contribution to asthma among older children and adolescents in the United States are unknown.


To estimate the relative contributions, population-attributable risks, and costs of residential risk factors for doctor-diagnosed asthma.


Nationally representative, cross-sectional survey conducted from 1988 to 1994.

Setting and Participants.

A total of 5384 children who were 6 to 16 years old and participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, a survey of the health and nutritional status of children and adults in the United States.

Main Outcome Measure.

Doctor-diagnosed asthma, as reported by the parent.


Five hundred three of 5384 children and adolescents (11.4%) had doctor-diagnosed asthma. After adjusting for age, gender, race, urban status, region of country, educational attainment of the head of household, and poverty, predictors of doctor-diagnosed asthma included a history of allergy to a pet (odds ratio [OR: 2.4; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.7, 3.3), presence of a pet in the household (OR: 1.5; 95% CI: 1.1, 2.1), and immediate hypersensitivity to dust mite (OR: 1.5; 95% CI: 1.05, 2.0),Alternaria (OR: 1.9; 95% CI: 1.3, 2.8), and cockroach allergens (OR: 1.4; CI: 1.04, 1.9). Family history of atopy (OR: 1.7; 95% CI: 1.1, 2.7) and diagnosis of allergic rhinitis (OR: 2.1; CI: 1.1, 3.7) were also predictors for asthma. The population-attributable risk of having 1 or more residential exposures associated with doctor-diagnosed asthma was 44.4% (95% CI: 29–60), or an estimated 2 million excess cases. The attributable cost of asthma resulting from residential exposures was $405 million (95% CI: $264–$547 million) annually.


The elimination of identified residential exposures, if causally associated with asthma, would result in a 44% decline in doctor-diagnosed asthma among older children and adolescents in the United States.

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