Wheezing in Chinese schoolchildren: disease severity distribution and management practices, a community-based study in Hong Kong and Guangzhou

F W S Ko, H Y Wang, G W K Wong, T F Leung, D S C Hui, D P S Chan, N S Zhong, C K W Lai
Clinical and Experimental Allergy 2005, 35 (11): 1449-56

BACKGROUND: Asthma is a common chronic disease and information on its management practices at the community level is helpful in identifying problems and improving asthma care.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the severity status and management of the asthma symptom of wheeze of children at the community level in Hong Kong (HK) and Guangzhou (GZ).

METHODS: Cross-sectional study of children aged 10 years using the International Study of Asthma and Allergic disease in Childhood (ISAAC Phase II protocol). Asthma management and lung function were assessed in 178 (98 from HK and 80 from GZ) randomly selected children with wheeze over the past 12 months.

RESULTS: Eighty-three percent, 11%, 6% and 0% of children suffered from intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent and severe persistent asthma, respectively, according to the frequency of their symptoms. Addition of spirometric parameter only changed the asthma severity classification in 2.8% of children. Medications were used by 30.6% and 71.3% of children for wheeze in HK and GZ, respectively. In HK, inhaled beta(2)-agonist (73.3% among the drug users) was the commonest medication used followed by inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) (23.3%). In GZ, inhaled beta(2)-agonist was used by 75.4% of children, but use of ICS (26.3%), oral beta(2)-agonist (26.3%), oral theophylline (45.6%), oral ketotifen (36.8%) and oral steroid (35.1%) were also common. ICS was only used by 11.4% of children with persistent asthma. Ten percent and 18.7% of children in HK and GZ, respectively, had emergency department visits, while 16.3% and 11.6% of children in HK and GZ, respectively, had missed school secondary to asthma over the past 1 year.

CONCLUSIONS: Most children in the community had intermittent asthma and addition of lung function to symptoms did not significantly affect classification of asthma severity. Significant morbidity was seen even in this group of children with mostly intermittent and mild persistent asthma.

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