Guideline for the management of chronic asthma in children—2000 update. Allergy Society of South Africa Working Group

C Motala, S Kling, R Gie, P C Potter, A Manjra, J Vermeulen, E G Weinberg, R Green
South African Medical Journal 2000, 90 (5 Pt 2): 524-8, 530, 532 passim

OBJECTIVE: To increase awareness of asthma and diagnose asthma early in children. To make recommendations regarding management of chronic childhood asthma in a country with diverse cultural, socio-economic and educational characteristics. The guideline should be used by health professionals involved in the treatment of asthma at all levels of care.

OPTIONS: Various management options were considered. Ideal treatment includes use of the new generation inhaled corticosteroids (fluticasone, budesonide), housedust mite intervention for asthma control using impermeable covers for pillows and mattresses, and if needed use of inhaled long-acting beta 2 agonists (LABAs) and leukotriene receptor antagonists (LRAs). Alternative therapeutic approaches for situations where resources are limited include simple housedust mite control measures (e.g. airing mattresses and bedding), avoidance of exposure to passive smoking, use of lower doses of beclomethasone than recommended by other guideline documents and/or sustained-release (SR) theophylline as preventer treatment and use of plastic bottles as cheap spacer devices.

OUTCOMES: The main potential outcomes considered were: to reduce morbidity and mortality by correct diagnosis of asthma, to achieve the best quality of life for the child with asthma, to minimise side-effects from medication and to prevent development of permanently abnormal lung function.

EVIDENCE: Current international guideline documents for diagnosis and management of childhood asthma were evaluated. Clinical studies before 1998 pertaining to the various aspects of management of childhood asthma were reviewed, including controlled studies on the use of inhaled corticosteroids in children with asthma, randomised controlled trials on the use of LRAs and two studies evaluating the efficacy of LABAs. Current data on the anti-inflammatory effects of SR theophylline were also reviewed as well as a randomised controlled trial on the benefits of SR theophylline as adjunct treatment in childhood asthma. The benefit of simple spacer devices, based on well-conducted local studies (published in an international peer-reviewed journal) was also considered.

VALUES: The South African Childhood Asthma Working Group (SACAWG) committee members, appointed by the Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA), were selected to represent the interests of health professionals involved in the care of childhood asthma and to co-opt other colleagues with expertise relevant to the guideline. The committee was divided into six task groups headed by a chairperson--each task group had to review critically the previous SACAWG guideline (for deficiencies and obstacles to implementation), review current trends in asthma management (evidence-based where available) and submit proposals and recommendations to their respective chairperson. The chairperson then compiled a report for discussion by the SACAWG executive committee. The executive group convened a meeting to discuss the recommendations and obtain consensus. An editorial board was appointed to compile the final report. Cultural factors, patient preferences, cost, availability and education were considered important.

BENEFITS, HARMS AND COSTS: Proper treatment should enable most children with asthma to lead normal or near-normal lives. The guideline could be implementable at all levels of care. The risk of systemic effects due to inhaled corticosteroids should be minimised in children with mild to moderate persistent asthma (risk of systemic effects is more likely at daily beclomethasone doses exceeding 400 micrograms or the equivalent dose of other inhaled corticosteroids). Promotion of simple environmental control measures and use of inhaled beclomethasone and/or SR theophylline should make treatment more widely available and more affordable and improve adherence to treatment. Alternative cheap plastic bottle spacer devices will increase availability and assist with overcoming the problem of incorrect inha

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