Percentage of asthmatic kids doubles in 10 years

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asthmaJAPAN - The proportion of schoolchildren suffering from asthma has more than doubled in the last 10 years to the highest level ever, an education ministry survey showed Thursday.

"In light of the increase not only in asthma but also in other types of allergies, the growth can be attributed to various factors, including air pollution and lifestyles," an Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry official said. "It's difficult to pinpoint a cause."

The preliminary figures are based on health checkup data for about 3.36 million children from kindergarten through high school across the country. The ministry conducted the research between April and June.

The proportion of asthma patients among kindergartners shot up to 2.4 percent from 1 percent in 1996, registering the highest rate of growth among kids, while such sufferers accounted for 3.8 percent of elementary school pupils, up from 1.6 percent.

In junior high schools, the proportion of asthma sufferers doubled to 3 percent, while among high school students it came to 1.7 percent, up from 0.8 percent 10 years ago.

The highest proportion of asthma sufferers were 6-year-olds, at 4.2 percent, with the rates gradually receding as the ages get higher.

The survey looked into atopic patients among the children for the first time and found that kindergartners had the highest rate of patients at 3.8 percent. they accounted for 3.6 percent of elementary school children, 2.8 percent of junior high school students and 2.2 percent of high school students.

A 2002 health ministry survey had found that 10 percent of children aged 18 months had suffered from atopic dermatitis. In light of the worsening situation, the education ministry began tallying the cases with doctors' opinions attached from this year.

The latest survey also looked into children's dental conditions, finding that junior high school students exhibited the highest rate of dental bite problems, at 5.2 percent.

Cavities have become less of a problem compared with 10 years ago across the age groups, according to the survey. Ten years ago, 12-year-olds had 3.5 cavities each on average, but today the rate is only 1.7.

The survey also found that heights and weights have remained unchanged over the past several years. An average male high school senior weighs 63.9 kg, up 100 grams from 2005, and is 170.9 cm tall, up 0.1 cm, while a comparable female weighs 53.7 kg and is 158 cm, unchanged from last year.

source The Japan Times