Background: Asthma is a chronic condition usually characterized by underlying inflammation. The study of asthmatic inflammation is of the utmost importance for both diagnostic and monitoring purposes. The gold standard for investigating airway inflammation is bronchoscopy, with bronchoalveolar lavage and bronchial biopsy, but the invasiveness of such procedures limits their use in children. For this reason, in the last decades there has been a growing interest for the development of noninvasive methods.
Main body: In the present review, we describe the most important non-invasive methods for the study of airway inflammation in children, focusing on the measure of the fractional exhaled nitric oxide (feNO), on the measure of the exhaled breath temperature (EBT) and on the analysis of both exhaled breath condensate (EBC) and exhaled air (Volatile Organic Compounds, VOCs), using targeted and untargeted approaches. We summarize what is currently known on the topic of exhaled biomarkers in childhood asthma, with a special emphasis on emerging approaches, underlining the role of exhaled biomarkers in the diagnosis, management and treatment of asthma, and their potential for the development of personalized treatments.
Conclusion: Among non-invasive methods to study asthma, exhaled breath analysis remains one of the most interesting approaches, feNO and "-omic" sciences seem promising for the purpose of characterizing biomarkers of this disease.