by Mahmoud Nahhas, Raj Bhopal, Chantelle Anandan, Rob Elton, Aziz Sheikh
There are limited data on the epidemiology of allergic disorders in Saudi Arabia. Such data are needed for, amongst other things, helping to plan service provision at a time when there is considerable investment taking place in national healthcare development. We sought to estimate the prevalence of atopic eczema, allergic rhinitis and asthma in primary school children in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. Methods and Findings
We conducted a two-stage cross-sectional survey of schoolchildren in Madinah. Children were recruited from 38 randomly selected schools. Questionnaires were sent to the parents of all 6,139 6–8 year old children in these schools. These parental-completed questionnaires incorporated questions from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), which had previously been validated for use in Arab populations. We undertook descriptive analyses, using the Generalized Estimating Equation (GEE) to calculate 95% confidence intervals. The overall response rate was 85.9% (n?=?5,188), 84.6% for girls and 86.2% for boys, respectively. Overall, parents reported symptoms suggestive of a history of eczema in 10.3% (95%CI 9.4, 11.4), rhinitis in 24.2% (95%CI 22.3, 26.2) and asthma in 23.6% (95%CI 21.3, 26.0) of children. Overall, 41.7% (95%CI 39.1, 44.4) of children had symptoms suggestive of at least one allergic disorder, with a substantial minority manifesting symptoms indicative of co-morbid allergic disease. Comparison of these symptom-based prevalence estimates with reports of clinician-diagnosed disease suggested that the majority of children with eczema and asthma had been diagnosed, but only a minority (17.4%) of children had been diagnosed with rhinitis. International comparisons indicated that children in Madinah have amongst the highest prevalence of allergic problems in the world. Conclusions
Symptoms indicative of allergic disease are very common in primary school-aged children in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, with figures comparable to the highest risk regions in the world.