Background: Asthma is a growing problem in the Caribbean but the prevalence in most islands is unknown and possible inter-island variation in prevalence has not been determined. A nationwide cross-sectional survey was conducted to compare the prevalence of asthma symptoms among high school students in the two islands of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Methods: Questionnaire and video instruments based on those developed by the International Study of Asthma & Allergy in Childhood (ISAAC) were used to assess asthma prevalence among 6394 children (age range, 11-19 years; mean age, 14.08 yrs) in the second and third years of 35 randomly selected high schools in Trinidad and Tobago. This cross sectional survey was conducted between September and December 2002. Results: A total of 4988 questionnaires were available for analysis (3519 in Trinidad and 1469 in Tobago). Among respondents from the two islands, there were no significant differences in the prevalence of ever wheezing (24.1% and 24.3% for Trinidad and Tobago, respectively, RR 0.99, 95% CI, 0.90-1.08); wheezing in the previous 12 months (13.1% & 13.4%, RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.84-1.15); a previous or current diagnosis of asthma (12.8% & 13.5%, RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.82-1.12) and night cough in the past 12 months (35.4% & 38.3%, RR0.93, 95% CI 0.86-1.00). However, symptoms of severe asthma were significantly more common among students from Tobago and included having had more than one acute attack in the past year (13.4% & 15.8%, RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.73-1.00, p = 0.0004), night waking as a result of wheeze (7.4% & 10.9%, RR 0.68, 95% CI 0.56-0.83, p < 0.0001) and speech limitation in the past year (5.2% & 8.7%, RR 0.59, 95% CI 0.47-0.74, p < 0.001) Exercise-associated wheezing was also more frequent among Tobagonian adolescents (17.5% & 20.2%, RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.76 - 0.98, p = 0.04). Conclusion: Self-reported wheeze is common among adolescents in Trinidad and Tobago. Variation in symptoms was found between the two territories; high school students from Tobago, the less industrialized of the two islands, reported more symptoms of severe asthma and exercise-induced wheeze. Difference in the ethnic composition rather than socio-economic factors may be contributing to the observed differences in symptom prevalence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health