Australia children under five who suffer wheezing attacks aren’t being diagnosed with asthma - even if they end up in hospital struggling to breathe.
To mark National Asthma Week next month, Asthma Australia is running a campaign to raise awareness about the impact of the condition on kids, families and carers.
It also wants to explain the difficulties in diagnosing early childhood asthma, which is one of the most common causes of hospital admissions and doctor visits in under-fives.
Doctors say they are reluctant to make an official diagnosis in kids this young because many will grow out of it and they don’t want them to unnecessarily end up on daily preventative medication.
Respiratory paediatrician Professor Adam Jaffé reports that wheezing is quite common in young children, whose lung function cannot be tested because they aren’t able to co-ordinate their breath properly with a lung function machine.
“Also, children change so rapidly, their immune systems are developing, their lungs are still growing and developing and they experience six to eight viral infections a year - far more than adults,” he said.
“We need to find a way to better educate parents and reassure them that their child’s care is not affected whether or not they get a diagnosis of asthma.”
“Many children under 5 grow out of wheezing. We don’t want children to end up taking daily preventer medications, such as steroids or fixed-dose combination medicines, if they don’t need them.”
Nevertheless, parents like Melissa Lonard - whose now two-year-old daughter Charli was in and out of hospital, including intensive care with respiratory failure, as a baby - may be left feeling frustrated and frightened by their children’s “wheezing attacks”.
Charli’s condition has improved since she began asthma preventer medication.
As part of its “You Care We Care” campaign, Asthma Australia has created an e-book of stories from parents, carers and young children across Australia.