A national study of asthma in childhood.
A history of asthma was obtained in 3.5% of a representative national sample of children aged 11 years. A further 8.8% had a history of wheezy bronchitis. In the 12 months before the interview, 2% had experienced attacks of asthma and a further 2.9% attacks of wheezy bronchitis. Both conditions were significantly more common among boys than girls, and a history of asthma was reported more frequently among children from non-manual than from manual social classes. Children with frequent attacks of wheezing had lower mean relative weights. A history of eczema and hay fever was more frequently discovered in children with reported asthma than in those with wheezy bronchitis, whereas migraine or recurrent headaches, recurrent abdominal pain, and recurrent throat or ear infections were more commonly associated with wheezy bronchitis than with asthma. The modified Rutter home behaviour scale, which reflects the parental view of the child's behaviour, was significantly raised among children with a history of wheezing, but their school behaviour as judged by the Bristol social adjustment guide showed no such difference. In spite of increased absence from school because of illness, no differences were found in educational attainment between children with a history of asthma or wheezy bronchitis and those with neither condition.