Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Prevalence of asthma and allergic disorders among children in united Germany: a descriptive comparison.

British Medical Journal 1992; 305 doi: (Published 05 December 1992) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1992;305:1395
  1. E. von Mutius,
  2. C. Fritzsch,
  3. S. K. Weiland,
  4. G. Röll,
  5. H. Magnussen
  1. University Children's Hospital, Dr von Haunersche Kinderklinik, Munich, Germany.


    OBJECTIVES--To compare the prevalence of asthma and allergic disorders among children in Munich, western Germany, and Leipzig, eastern Germany, where environmental exposure, particularly air concentrations of sulphur dioxide and particulate matter, and living conditions have differed over the past 45 years. DESIGN--Prevalence surveys among school-children aged 9-11 years in Leipzig and Munich. Self completion of written questionnaire by the children's parents and lung function measurements. SUBJECTS--1051 children in Leipzig and 5030 in Munich. SETTING--Primary schools. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Reported lifetime prevalence of asthma and allergic disorders, and bronchial hyperresponsiveness assessed by cold air inhalation challenge. RESULTS--The lifetime prevalence of asthma diagnosed by a doctor was 7.3% (72) in Leipzig and 9.3% (435) in Munich; prevalence of wheezing were 20% (191) and 17% (786) respectively. The prevalence of diagnosed bronchitis was higher in Leipzig than Munich (30.9% (303) v 15.9% (739); p < 0.01). A significant drop in forced expiratory volume (> 9%) after cold air challenge was measured in 6.4% (57) of children in Leipzig and in 7.7% (345) of those in Munich. Hay fever (2.4% (24) v 8.6% (410); p < 0.01) and typical symptoms of rhinitis (16.6% (171) v 19.7% (961); p < 0.05) were reported less often in Leipzig than in Munich. CONCLUSIONS--No significant differences were seen in the lifetime prevalence of asthma, wheezing, and bronchial hyperresponsiveness between children in Leipzig and Munich. The lifetime prevalence of bronchitis was higher in Leipzig than in Munich. The lower prevalence rates of allergic disorders in Leipzig could point toward aetiological factors that are associated with Western lifestyle and living conditions.