Background: Asthma is a difficult diagnosis to establish in preschool children. A few years ago, our group presented a prediction rule for young children at risk for asthma in general practice. Before this prediction rule can safely be used in practice, cross-validation is required. In addition, general practitioners face many therapeutic management decisions in children at risk for asthma. The objectives of the study are: (1) identification of predictors for asthma in preschool children at risk for asthma with the aim of cross-validating an earlier derived prediction rule; (2) compare the effects of different treatment strategies in preschool children.
Design: In this prospective cohort study one to five year old children at risk of developing asthma were selected from general practices. At risk was defined as 'visited the general practitioner with recurrent coughing (>or= 2 visits), wheezing (>or=1) or shortness of breath (>or=1) in the previous 12 months'. All children in this prospective cohort study will be followed until the age of six. For our prediction rule, demographic data, data with respect to clinical history and additional tests (specific immunoglobulin E (IgE), fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FENO), peak expiratory flow (PEF)) are collected. History of airway specific medication use, symptom severity and health-related quality of life (QoL) are collected to estimate the effect of different treatment intensities (as expressed in GINA levels) using recently developed statistical techniques. In total, 1,938 children at risk of asthma were selected from general practice and 771 children (40%) were enrolled. At the time of writing, follow-up for all 5-year olds and the majority of the 4-year olds is complete. The total and specific IgE measurements at baseline were carried out by 87% of the children. Response rates to the repeated questionnaires varied from 93% at baseline to 73% after 18 months follow-up; 89% and 87% performed PEF and FENO measurements, respectively.
Discussion: In this study a prediction rule for asthma in young children, to be used in (general) practice, will be cross-validated. Our study will also provide more insight in the effect of treatment of asthma in preschool children.