The purpose of this study was to investigate the nationwide prevalence of childhood asthma, eczema and other allergic diseases in Korean school-age children (8-11 yr old) and to assess the difference between residential areas. Among 6,279 elementary schools, 427 schools were randomly selected according to residential area (metropolitan, provincial, rural, and industrial area) by the cluster sampling method. Parents of students completed a modified Korean version of a questionnaire formulated by the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). Among 50,200 subjects, 31,026 (61.8%) responded, and 30,893 (99.6%) were analyzed. The 12-month prevalence of wheeze, flexural rash, and allergic rhinitis symptoms were 4.8%, 15.3%, and 32.9%, respectively. The prevalence of diagnosis of allergic diseases in boys was higher than that in girls, with the exception of eczema. In both boys and girls, the difference of the prevalence of allergic diseases among industrial, metropolitan and provincial areas was not statistically significant, but the differences between rural area and other areas were significant. Our results support the importance of contextual effect associated with residential area as causative agents of allergic diseases among Korean school-age children.
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