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Asthma and allergies in Jamaican children aged 2–17 years: a cross-sectional prevalence survey
  1. Eulalia K Kahwa1,
  2. Norman K Waldron1,
  3. Novie O Younger2,
  4. Nancy C Edwards3,
  5. Jennifer M Knight-Madden2,
  6. Kay A Bailey4,
  7. Yvonne B Wint1,
  8. Karen N Lewis-Bell5
  1. 1The UWI School of Nursing, Mona, University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica
  2. 2Tropical Metabolism Research Institute, University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica
  3. 3School of Nursing, Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Child Health, University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica
  5. 5Department of Family Health, Ministry of Health, Kingston, Jamaica
  1. Correspondence to Dr Eulalia Kokuangisa Kahwa; eulalia.kahwa02{at}


Objective To determine the prevalence and severity of asthma and allergies as well as risk factors for asthma among Jamaican children aged 2–17 years.

Design A cross-sectional, community-based prevalence survey using the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood questionnaire. The authors selected a representative sample of 2017 children using stratified, multistage cluster sampling design using enumeration districts as primary sampling units.

Setting Jamaica, a Caribbean island with a total population of approximately 2.6 million, geographically divided into 14 parishes.

Participants Children aged 2–17 years, who were resident in private households. Institutionalised children such as those in boarding schools and hospitals were excluded from the survey.

Primary and secondary outcome measures The prevalence and severity of asthma and allergy symptoms, doctor-diagnosed asthma and risk factors for asthma.

Results Almost a fifth (19.6%) of Jamaican children aged 2–17 years had current wheeze, while 16.7% had self-reported doctor-diagnosed asthma. Both were more common among males than among females. The prevalence of rhinitis, hay fever and eczema among children was 24.5%, 25% and 17.3%, respectively. Current wheeze was more common among children with rhinitis in the last 12 months (44.3% vs 12.6%, p<0.001), hay fever (36.8% vs 13.8%, p<0.001) and eczema (34.1% vs 16.4%, p<0.001). Independent risk factors for current wheeze (ORs, 95% CI) were chest infections in the first year of life 4.83 (3.00 to 7.77), parental asthma 4.19 (2.8 to 6.08), rhinitis in the last 12 months 6.92 (5.16 to 9.29), hay fever 4.82 (3.62 to 6.41), moulds in the home 2.25 (1.16 to 4.45), cat in the home 2.44 (1.66 to 3.58) and dog in the home 1.81 (1.18 to 2.78).

Conclusions The prevalence of asthma and allergies in Jamaican children is high. Significant risk factors for asthma include chest infections in the first year of life, a history of asthma in the family, allergies, moulds and pets in the home.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

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  • To cite: Kahwa EK, Waldron NK, Younger NO, et al. Asthma and allergies in Jamaican children aged 2–17 years: a cross-sectional prevalence survey. BMJ Open 2012;2:e001132. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001132

  • Contributors EKK was the principal investigator, EKK, NKW, NOY and YBW contributed to proposal development, EKK, NOY and NKW were responsible for data management and interpretation. EKK, NOY and NCE drafted the original manuscript; all authors reviewed the manuscript and contributed to the intellectual content of the paper.

  • Funding The study was supported by the National Health Fund, CHASE Fund and the University of the West Indies. All research was conducted independent of funders.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the University Hospital of the West Indies, Faculty of Medical Sciences Ethics Committee and the Ministry of Health Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Additional data on asthma prevalence and management among adults, asthma triggers socioeconomic status is contained in a project report.

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