Experts warn against the ‘trivialisation’ of asthma

There is no evidence that Irish doctors are over-diagnosing asthma in children but the potentially fatal condition is often trivialised, the Asthma Society of Ireland has said.

The society was responding to two leading respiratory experts who believe the diagnosis of asthma in children has been “trivialised”, with inhalers dished out like “fashion accessories”.

In an article published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, they highlight a study in which half of 100 children received an asthma diagnosis.

However, following a thorough investigation, the number of children believed to be suffering from the respiratory condition dwindled to 5%.

Anne Kearney from the Asthma Society of Ireland said it was certainly a condition that was often trivialised, with one person dying from asthma every week in Ireland.

“While we have no evidence to suggest that asthma is being over-diagnosed in Ireland, we understand that the report may cause concern for some parents,” said Ms Kearney.

“It is vital that no parent of a child with asthma stops taking their medication on the basis of this information, without first discussing it with their doctor.”

Prof Andrew Bush from the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and Dr Louise Fleming of Imperial College London, are concerned that children still die because of basic asthma management.

“Is there any other chronic disease in the world in which children are committed to potentially hazardous long-term therapy without every effort being made objectively to document the diagnosis,” they ask.

Children of school age should be properly assessed to see if they have variable airflow obstruction before receiving a diagnosis, they recommend.

Any treatments trialled on youngsters must be focused, with children not left on an unproven treatment indefinitely.

The point out that many children outgrow asthma symptoms and that treatment should not simply be stepped up if the child failed to respond because the diagnosis might not be right.


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