Objectives: To study the frequency of corticosteroid therapy and the use of inpatient care for preschool children with wheezing in two regions in Finland.
Methods: The Finnish Social Insurance Institution database on refundable asthma medication indicated that 1.18% of children in Tampere and 2.37% in Turku used inhaled corticosteroids regularly. To clarify the difference, hospital records of 800 randomly chosen 0.5-6.9-year-old children who had been treated for wheezing in Tampere or Turku University Hospital during 1995-1996 were retrospectively analysed.
Results: The incidences of wheezing-related emergency room (ER) index visits were 11.0 visits/year/1000 children both in Tampere and Turku. Oral corticosteroids were given to 2.5% versus 24.2% of children in ER and 10.6% versus 89.7% in hospital ward in Tampere and Turku, respectively. Hospitalisation rates were 44.8% in Tampere and 36.8% in Turku (95% confidence interval for the difference 1.2-14.8%). In both regions, children with prior inhaled corticosteroid therapy needed less inpatient care. Mean duration of hospitalisation was 3.4 days in Tampere and only 1.4 days in Turku. Recurrent visits in 6 months were more common in Tampere.
Conclusions: There were marked regional differences in the management of preschool children with wheezing. On a population level, frequent use of corticosteroid therapy was associated with reduced hospital admissions.