Investigating the association between wood and charcoal domestic cooking, respiratory symptoms and acute respiratory infections among children aged under 5 years in Uganda: A cross-sectional analysis of the 2015/16 Demographic and Health Survey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Katherine Woolley
  • Tusubira Bagambe
  • William Avis
  • Telesphore Kabera
  • Abel Weldetinsae
  • Shelton Mariga
  • Bruce Kirenga


Household air pollution associated with biomass (wood, dung, charcoal, and crop residue) cooking contributes to approximately 4 million deaths each year worldwide, with the greatest burden in low and middle-income countries. We investigated the relationship between solid fuel type and respiratory symptoms in Uganda, where 96% of households use biomass as the primary domestic fuel. Materials and Methods: Cross-sectional study of 15,405 pre-school aged children living in charcoal or wood-burning households in Uganda, using data from the 2016 Demographic and Health Survey. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to identify the associations between occurrence of a cough, shortness of breath , fever, acute respiratory infection (ARI) and severe ARI with cooking fuel type (wood, charcoal); with additional sub-analyses by contextual status (urban, rural). Results: After adjustment for household and individual level confounding factors, wood fuel use was associated with increased risk of shortness of breath (AOR:1.33 [1.10-1.60]), fever (AOR:1.26 [1.08-1.48]), cough (AOR:1.15 [1.00-1.33]), ARI (AOR:1.36 [1.11-1.66] and severe ARI (AOR:1.41 [1.09-1.85]), compared to charcoal fuel. In urban areas, Shortness of breath (AOR:1.84 [1.20-2.83]), ARI (AOR:1.77 [1.10-2.79]) and in rural areas ARI (AOR:1.23 [1.03-1.47]) and risk of fever (AOR:1.23 [1.03-1.47]) were associated with wood fuel usage. Conclusion Risk of respiratory symptoms was higher among children living in wood compared to charcoal fuel-burning households, with policy implications for mitigation of associated harmful health impacts.
Keywords: Acute Respiratory Infection; biomass fuel; household air pollution; respiratory symptoms; Uganda


Original languageEnglish
Article number3974
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2020


  • Acute Respiratory Infection, biomass fuel, household air pollution, respiratory symptoms, Uganda