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Tuesday, July 6, 1999 Published at 00:06 GMT 01:06 UK


Health

Asthma confusion endangers children

Asthma is on the increase in children

One in four parents of children with asthma do not understand the difference between medicines to relieve symptoms and those to prevent attacks, a survey has found.

The research also found that only four out of 10 asthmatic children take their "controller" asthma medication regularly whether they have symptoms or not.

Experts agree regular use of controller medication is essential to minimise long-term lung damage in the growing number of children with asthma around the world.


[ image: Many people are confused by asthma medication]
Many people are confused by asthma medication
The results of the survey - the first to assess the social and psychological impact of asthma on parents of children with the condition - are to be presented during the annual meeting of the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) on Tuesday.

Professor Jean Bousquet, chairman of the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) and professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Montpellier in France, said: "Asthma is the epidemic of the 21st century.

'These findings, which provide us with insights into the real-life issues facing asthmatic children and their families, are disappointing.

"They show that we need to find new ways to help families understand the importance of preventing asthma symptoms and achieving long-term management of the disease."

Professor Bousquet said there was a need for better education about asthma and for access to easy-to-take treatment for children.

The survey was based on the responses of 631 parents of children with asthma who were surveyed this year in five European countries - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

It revealed that:

  • One in four parents of children with asthma believe that "controller therapy" is short-term, fast-acting medication that stops asthma symptoms - which is in fact the definition of reliever therapy
  • Three in 10 parents do not consider taking their children's asthma medication with them when planning family excursions and holidays
  • One in seven children forget to take their asthma medication or take it at the wrong time, according to their parents

Parents worry about the impact

The survey also showed that many parents of children with asthma said they worry about how the disease is affecting their lives and those of their children.

About 40% of those surveyed agreed that having a child with asthma had made life more stressful.

Dr Errka Valovirta, vice-president of the European Federation of Asthma and Allergy Associations (EFA), one of the organisations involved in the study, said: "It is understandable that parents are worried about their child's asthma, particularly if they do not have all the information they need to help control their disease and prevent asthma symptoms."

Dr Antonio Nieto, a paediatric allergist at Children's Hospital La Fe in Valencia, Spain, stressed the importance of good asthma control for the growing numbers of children who have the disease.

"We now have convincing evidence that good asthma control reduces the need for hospital treatment and helps children lead normal lives at school, at home, on holiday and with their friends."

Anne Bradley, chief executive of the National Asthma Campaign, said patients needed clear advice backed up by written information.

"It is clear that there is still a long way to go if we are to reduce suffering and ensure that all people with asthma receive the best possible care," she said.





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