Underdiagnosis and undertreatment of asthma in childhood

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1983 Apr 16;286(6373):1253-6. doi: 10.1136/bmj.286.6373.1253.


A total of 179 Tyneside children who had suffered at least one episode of wheeze since school entry were seen at the age of 7. All but 14 had visited a doctor for chest symptoms, but a diagnosis of asthma had been offered to the parents of only 21 children, including three of the 56 children experiencing four to 12 wheezy episodes a year and 11 of the 31 children experiencing more than 12 episodes a year. Bronchodilator treatment was rarely offered in the absence of such a diagnosis, and two thirds of the children had never received a bronchodilator. Of the children experiencing four or more episodes a year, only a third had received bronchodilator drugs regularly, though half had lost more than 50 days from school because of wheeze. School absenteeism fell 10-fold in the 31 children finally offered continuous prophylactic treatment. Although many doctors had feared that use of the word "asthma" would cause anxiety, parents were uniformly relieved when given an explanation of their child's recurrent wheeze. This study uncovered a disturbing amount of ill health in children that was easily rectified. Probably this same problem exists in other areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism
  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Attitude to Health
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Parents
  • Respiratory Sounds / diagnosis


  • Bronchodilator Agents