Britain has the world's highest percentage of children aged 13 and 14 who suffer from asthma symptoms, a report published today says.

The findings of the Global Initiative for Asthma (Gina) reveal that of children in that age group, 37 per cent in Scotland, 34 per cent in Wales and 30 per cent in England had experienced symptoms of asthma in the past year. New Zealand and Australia, which in the past have had the highest childhood rates, followed the UK.

The report says British children are three times more likely to suffer asthma than those in France, Germany or Italy.

Britain has one of the highest rates of allergy in the world; rates of eczema and asthma have doubled in the last 20 years. Suspected reasons for rise include the environment, changes in diet and genetics.

About 20,000 cases of asthma are seen by doctors in Britain and Ireland every week, and the condition is responsible for about 1,500 deaths each year, the report says.

About 10 million people suffer from the condition. Doctors and health campaigners want the Government to sponsor more research into the causes of asthma.

Reports last week predicted that half of all Europeans will suffer some kind of allergy by 2015.