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BACKGROUND: Pediatric asthma survey measures have not been adequately tested in non-English-speaking populations. OBJECTIVES: To test the reliability and validity of an English and Spanish symptom scale to measure asthma control in children. SUBJECTS: Parents (54% Spanish-speaking; 61% not high school graduates) of 234 children seen in the emergency department for an asthma exacerbation. MEASURES: Parent report of frequency and perceived severity of child asthma symptoms during the beginning and after resolution of the exacerbation. RESULTS: An 8-item scale composed of reports of cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, asthma attacks, chest pain, night symptoms, and overall perceived severity had very good psychometric properties in both English and Spanish. The reliability (Cronbach's alpha) of the scale ranged from 0.81 to 0.87 for both languages and time frames. In both languages, the validity of the scale was supported by responsiveness to changes in clinical status (lower symptom score after resolution of the exacerbation, P < 0.001) and by moderate to strong correlations (P < 0.001) with other asthma morbidity measures (parent report of child bother: r = 0.59-0.65; school days lost: r = 0.38-0.67; and activity days lost: r = 0.41-0.59). There were no statistically significant differences in the reliability or construct validity of the summary symptom scale by language, although Spanish speakers reported a lower frequency of some symptoms than did English speakers. CONCLUSIONS: A reliable and valid 8-item scale can be used to measure control of asthma symptoms in Spanish-speaking populations of low literacy. Additional research to evaluate language equivalency of asthma measures is necessary.

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