Background: Little is known about the determinants of airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) among children with asthma in Hispanic America.
Methods: We examined the relations among selected familial and environmental factors, markers of allergy, spirometric measures of lung function, and AHR in a cross-sectional study of 403 Costa Rican children with asthma between the ages of 6 and 14 years. Study participants completed a protocol that included questionnaires, spirometry, measurements of serum total and allergen-specific IgE, peripheral blood eosinophil count, and body mass index, and the assessment of airway responsiveness to methacholine (ie, a methacholine challenge test [MCT]). AHR to MCT was defined as the provocative dose of methacholine causing a 20% fall in FEV1. Linear regression was used for the univariate and multivariate analyses.
Results: Of the 403 asthmatic children who underwent an MCT, 350 (86.8%) had AHR to methacholine. In a multivariate analysis, paternal asthma (p = 0.004), parental report of mold/mildew in the child’s home (p = 0.04), FEV1/FVC ratio (p < 0.0001), and a positive IgE response to Der p 1 (p = 0.008) were significantly associated with AHR among Costa Rican children with asthma.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that paternal asthma and environmental exposure to mold/mildew are strong determinants of AHR in Costa Rican children with asthma. FEV1/FVC ratio may be a useful measure of AHR (a marker of asthma severity) among Costa Ricans and other Hispanic Americans for whom reference values for FEV1 are not currently available.