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Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 
ACAAI > News > Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
 

Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

2009, vol. 103, no. 6, pp. 469 - 473

Detection and home management of worsening asthma symptoms

Jane Garbutt MBChB; Gabriellle Highstein RN, PhD; Kyle A. Nelson MD, MPH; Katherine Rivera-Spoljaric MD; Robert Strunk MD

Abstract

Background: Asthma guidelines recommend early home treatment of exacerbations. However, home treatment is often suboptimal and delayed.

Objectives: To describe antecedent symptoms and signs of asthma exacerbations noticed by parents and to learn when and how parents intensify asthma treatment.

Methods: Parents of children 2 to 12 years old with asthma exacerbations that required urgent care in the past 12 months completed telephone questionnaires. Where multiple responses were possible, percentages may sum to more than 100%.

Results: One hundred one parents were enrolled and interviewed; 94% were the children's mothers. Seventy percent of the children were black, and 64% had Medicaid insurance. Parents reported multiple antecedent symptoms and signs (median number per child, 3; range, 1-6), including respiratory symptoms (79%), allergy or cold symptoms (43%), behavioral changes (24%), and other nonspecific symptoms (29%). Twenty-three parents reported late respiratory symptoms, such as gasping for breath and using accessory muscles to breath, as the earliest antecedent signs. Treatment was most often intensified when the parent noticed cough (55%), shortness of breath (54%), and wheeze (25%) and included adding albuterol (92%), an oral corticosteroid (17%), an inhaled corticosteroid (8%), or other nonasthma medications (16%).

Conclusions: Although parents described antecedent symptoms and signs of impending asthma exacerbations that they consistently noticed in their children, many waited for lower respiratory signs to be present before intensifying treatment. Oral corticosteroids were used infrequently. Interventions to improve the ability of parents and children to accurately recognize worsening symptoms and initiate timely, effective treatment are needed.

 
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