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Canadian Respiratory Journal
Volume 8, Issue 3, Pages 139-146
Original Article

The Epidemiology of Childhood Asthma in Red Deer and Medicine Hat, Alberta

Patrick A Hessel,1 Justine Klaver,1 Dennis Michaelchuk,1 Shawna McGhan,2 Mary M Carson,3 and Darrel Melvin4

1Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
2Alberta Asthma Centre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
3Alberta Lung Association, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
4Community Respiratory Services, Red Deer Regional Hospital, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

Copyright © 2001 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


OBJECTIVES: To document the prevalence of asthma among school-aged children in two Alberta communities, to understand host and indoor environmental factors associated with asthma, and to compare these factors between the two communities.

DESIGN: A cross-sectional study with a nested, case-control follow-up.

SETTING: Red Deer and Medicine Hat, Alberta.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Questionnaires were sent to families of children aged five to 19 years in Red Deer (n=5292) and Medicine Hat (n=5372) to identify children with current asthma. A random sample of 592 children with current asthma and 443 with no history of asthma constituted a case-control population; they were followed up by telephone to obtain responses to the European Respiratory Health Survey and, in children with current asthma, the Pediatric Quality of Life Questionnaire.

RESULTS: Cross-sectional response rates were 84% and 73% for Red Deer and Medicine Hat, respectively. The prevalence of asthma was higher in Medicine Hat (17.0%) than in Red Deer (12.8%). In the follow-up study, factors associated with the presence of asthma were parental asthma or allergies, number of siblings, presence of cats, serious respiratory illnesses before five years of age, sex, age, presence of mould and/or mildew and use of a gas cooking stove. The presence of mould and/or mildew was a significant risk factor in Red Deer but not in Medicine Hat.

CONCLUSIONS: Asthma prevalence among school children in Red Deer was consistent with recently published Canadian data; the prevalence in Medicine Hat was higher than expected, especially given the low relative humidity. Risk factor data are consistent with other studies in that parental asthma, especially maternal asthma, was a significant predictor of childhood asthma. Cats in the house (both communities) and environmental tobacco smoke (Medicine Hat only) were significantly less common among children with asthma, suggesting that preventive actions may have been taken in the homes of some children with asthma.