HEALTH Asthma epidemic exaggerated

Jeremy Laurance
Thursday 19 June 1997 23:02 BST

Fears that the industrialised world is facing an epidemic of asthma and wheezing may be based on inaccurate information, doctors say.

Researchers who reviewed 16 studies of asthma in children and young adults conducted in six different countries all of which showed an apparent increase in the condition found the increase could be due to greater awareness among parents, changes in doctors' diagnosis patterns and lower tolerance of mild respiratory symptoms.

The researchers, from the National Institute of Public Health in Oslo, Norway, say in the British Medical Journal that future surveys must be based on standardised questions and objective measurements. "Until such studies have been performed on more than one occasion in the same population we believe the evidence for an increasing trend ... is weak," they say.

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