New national audit on childhood asthma published by British Thoracic Society

The National Paediatric Asthma Audit has recently been published by the British Thoracic Society. Highlights of the review include:

  • Hospital care of acute wheezing and asthma is ‘efficient and effective’
  • Hospital stays are short and majority receive care entirely within emergency department
  • Chest X-rays and antibiotics were used more frequently than appropriate according to evidence suggests
  • Discharge procedures are deemed inadequate which could be contributing to readmission rate of 15%
  • Tobacco smoke exposure is reported in 32% of children – although a significant proportion of hospitals did not provide data on this so this may be higher

Traffic fumes and asthma in children

Researchers at Leeds University have found a link between traffic pollution and a rise in childhood asthma. In a systematic review of current evidence, researchers at the university and at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health found that children exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) have a higher risk of developing asthma.

Haneen Khreis, lead author of the study, concluded: “According to the analysis we performed, combining data from multiple studies, we can now confirm that there is a positive association between TRAP exposures and development of childhood asthma”.

As reported on the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health website, up to 3,000 schools in England are in areas that breach EU and World Health Organisation air pollution limits.


Winter can worsen childhood asthma

As any parent of an asthma sufferer knows, colds and flu can worsen asthma symptoms. Research by scientists at Imperial College, London, published in 2014, found one possible link: the rhinovirus or common cold virus causes an increase in a protein that is found in the cells that line the airways. This inflammatory protein, known as IL-25, narrows the airways which as well as causing sneezing, coughing and a sore throat, can also trigger an asthma attack.

Although young children are very susceptible to developing colds and flu in the winter, there are some steps you can take to minimise the risks:

  • Wash their hands regularly: Viruses are typically spread from touching infected surfaces and then transferring them to the nose or eyes. Wash your child’s hands frequently in soap and hot water to minimise this risk. An antiviral hand wash can also be useful.
  • Boost their immune system: make sure they are eating a varied diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. Lots of sleep is also key to maintaining a healthy immunity.
  • Think about the flu jab: currently in the UK, children aged two, three and four (on 31 August 2016) and children in school years one, two and three are eligible for the flu vaccine which is delivered through a yearly nasal spray. Children aged between two and 17 with chronic health conditions are also eligible.