The trend in the prevalence of reported asthma was determined from data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics. The reported prevalence of ever having asthma increased among 6- to 11-year-old children between the first (1971 to 1974) and second (1976 to 1980) National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (4.8% to 7.6%, P < .01). The epidemiology of asthma among children and adolescents 3 to 17 years of age in the United States was examined using data collected in the second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In this paper, asthma is defined as current disease diagnosed by a physician and/or frequent trouble with wheezing during the past 12 months, not counting colds or the flu. Asthma was reported for 6.7% of youths overall and was higher in black than white children (9.4% v 6.2%, P < .01), boys than girls (7.8% v 5.5%, P < .01), and urban than rural areas (7.1% v 5.7%, P < .05). Asthmatic children had a higher prevalence of other allergies (42.6% v 13.2%, P < .01) and of allergen skin test reactivity (44.5% v 20.7%, P < .01) than nonasthmatic children. Most asthmatics had their first asthmatic episode before their third birthday. No effect of socioeconomic status on the prevalence of asthma was noted.

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