Management of asthma in children in low-income countries
Asthma is a common disease in children living in low-income countries. Asthma is diagnosed in children, especially those aged over 2 years, who have wheezing episodes that improve after a bronchodilator is given (bronchodilator response test). Children are classified as having either intermittent or persistent asthma and treated according to the severity of the disease with either an inhaled bronchodilator (reliever) or a combination of an inhaled bronchodilator and inhaled corticosteroid (controller). Treatment is best given by inhalation, and as children under 5 years cannot coordinate their breathing with the multidose inhaler, spacers are required. These can be made locally from plastic bottles. Care givers need to be educated about how to manage asthma and should receive a written management plan on the management of the child's asthma. Children should be examined to see if they are allergic to especially airborne allergens, and if these are present they should be removed from the environment. Adult smoking worsens childhood asthma, and care givers need to be given support with smoking cessation. Regular planned follow-up is needed to ensure that the asthma is well controlled and the lowest dose of inhaled corticosteroid is used. Inhaled bronchodilators and corticosteroids must become freely available and should be inexpensive in low-income countries in order to treat childhood asthma correctly. © 2005 The Union.