Aim: To compare diagnosis and treatment between German and Dutch children with asthmatic symptoms at the age of 5-6 and 7-8 years, and the use of anti-asthma medication at 7-8 years of age.
Methods: Parents of 4462 children participated in two surveys, in 1995 and 1997. All 465 children identified with current asthmatic symptoms at the age of 5-6 (May 1995) or at 7-8 years of age (May 1997) were sent a third more detailed questionnaire (October 1997).
Results: Asthma diagnosis was more prevalent in Dutch children with current asthmatic complaints (50-60%), whereas over 90% of the German children with current asthmatic complaints had been diagnosed with bronchitis. Inhaled beta(2)-agonists were more frequently used by Dutch children compared to German children (67.3% vs. 45.6% p < 0.01) as were inhaled steroids (38.9% vs. 7.0% p < 0.01). Instead, German children more often used sodium cromoglycate or nedocromil as anti-inflammatory medication as compared with Dutch children (42.1% vs. 11.5% p < 0.01).
Conclusions: Differences in diagnosis rates for asthma and bronchitis between German and Dutch children most likely result from differential labelling of complaints, and probably lead to differences in treatment practice, indicating possible undertreatment of German children with inhaled steroids.