Management of acute asthma attacks associated with respiratory tract infection: a postal survey of general practitioners in the U.K

Respir Med. 1996 Aug;90(7):419-25. doi: 10.1016/s0954-6111(96)90116-x.


Asthma attacks in general practice are frequently associated with respiratory tract infection. The aim of this study was to examine how U.K. general practitioners (GPs) might use oral steroids and antibiotics in such situations. The timing of follow-up and use of self-management plans were also examined. A postal questionnaire was sent to all 205 GP principals in Bath Health District, U.K. in February and March 1993. Respondents were asked questions regarding the management of an adult and a child presenting with acute asthma associated with respiratory tract infection. Replies were received from 185 of 205 (90%) doctors approached. Antibiotics would have been prescribed by 119 of 179 (66%) doctors for the adult and 98 of 169 (58%) doctors for the child. The modal initial dosage of oral prednisolone was 40 mg for the adult and 30 mg for the child, and modal duration of oral steroid dosage was 5 days for both adult and child. Planned follow-up was mainly doctor initiated within 24 h of initial consultation. There was low reported use of self-management plans (49% for adults and 33% in children over 7 years of age). Antibiotic prescription appears to be common practice by GPs when faced with an acute asthma attack associated with respiratory tract infection. There may also be inadequate duration of oral steroid courses in adults. There is a need to examine further the proper role, if any, of antibiotics in such situations, to determine the optimum dose and course length of oral steroid therapy, and to continue validating the use of self-management plans in acute asthma management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Prednisolone / therapeutic use
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy
  • Self Administration
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • United Kingdom


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Prednisolone