Alexandros Ntzounas

and 9 more

Background: A series of repeated questionnaire surveys among 8- and 9-year-old schoolchildren in the city of Patras, Greece, demonstrated a continuous rise in the prevalence of wheeze/asthma from 1978 to 2003, with a plateau between 2003 and 2008. We further investigated wheeze/asthma trends within the same environment during the last decade. Methods: Two further identical cross-sectional surveys were conducted in 2013 (N=2554) and 2018 (N=2648). Physician-diagnosed wheeze and asthma were analysed separately and in relation to their occurrence (recent-onset: solely within the last two years; non-current: prior to the last two years; persistent: both before and within the last two years). In addition, in 2018, spirometry was performed in participants reporting relevant symptoms and in a random sample of healthy controls. Results: The prevalence of current wheeze/asthma declined from 6.9% in 2008 to 5.2% in 2013 and 4.3% in 2018. The persistent and non-current wheeze/asthma groups (both including children with symptoms at preschool age) followed this overall trend, while the prevalence of recent-onset wheeze/asthma remained unchanged. Persistent and non-current wheezers were also more frequently diagnosed with asthma, in contrast to those with recent-onset wheeze. Children with recent-onset wheeze/asthma and a considerable fraction of those with persistent symptoms had lower lung function. Conclusions: The prevalence of childhood wheeze/asthma has declined significantly during the last decade in Greece. Our analysis suggests that the reversing trend is most likely attributed to changing asthma perceptions among physicians and/or parents, especially in the case of preschool children with troublesome respiratory symptoms.