OBJECTIVE: To investigate variations in the prevalence of self reported symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of asthma in 12-14 year old children. DESIGN: Self completion questionnaire. SETTING: Great Britain. SUBJECTS: All pupils aged 12-14 years in a stratified cluster sample of 93 large mixed secondary schools in 1995. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Self reported prevalence of symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of asthma at four geographical levels. RESULTS: 27,507 questionnaires were completed (85.9% response rate). The national 12 month prevalence of any wheezing, speech limiting wheeze, four or more attacks of wheeze, and frequent night waking with wheeze was 33.3% (n = 9155), 8.8% (2427), 9.6% (2634), and 3.7% (1023) respectively. The prevalence of ever having had a diagnosis of asthma was 20.9% (5736). In total, 19.8% (5438/27,507) of pupils reported treatment with anti-asthma drugs in the past year, but, of pupils reporting frequent nocturnal wheeze in the past year, 33.8% (342/1012) had no diagnosis of asthma and 38.6% (395/1023) denied receiving inhaler therapy. The 12 month prevalence of wheeze was highest in Scotland (36.7%, 1633/4444), but in England and Wales there was no discernible north-south or east-west gradient. Wheeze prevalence was slightly higher in non-metropolitan areas (35.0%, 6155/17,605) than in metropolitan areas (30.3%, 3000/9902). The prevalence of self reported asthma diagnosis and inhaler use showed no discernible national, regional, north-south, or east-west geographical pattern but was higher in non-metropolitan areas. CONCLUSION: Prevalence of self reported symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of asthma was high among 12-14 year olds throughout Great Britain with little geographical or urban-rural variation. Underdiagnosis and undertreatment were substantial
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