Aims: To develop new measures of asthma morbidity which would be applicable to children with asthma of all grades of severity.
Methods: This study used a cross sectional sample of asthmatic children. Traditional asthma morbidity measures (admission to hospital, use of Emergency Room, general practitioner, after hours deputising service and ambulance) were compared with new measures (school attendance, teacher assessment, parental perception of morbidity and parents emotional response to child's asthma).
Results: Data was obtained for 381 children with asthma. Children with poor school attendance were found in the severe group as judged by a composite score using traditional measures (r = 0.30, p < 0.0001). A new composite morbidity score based on two questions about parental perception of severity (how often has asthma prevented participation in activities and rating of severity of asthma in general over the last year) and two questions about parent emotional response to the child's asthma (how often has your child's asthma (a) made you feel frightened and (b) stopped family activities) was developed. This new measure of asthma morbidity was correlated with the composite score using traditional morbidity measures (r = 0.43, p < 0.0001) and with school attendance (r = 0.28, p < 0.0001).
Conclusion: These new morbidity measures are quick and easy to use, and provide an opportunity to measure asthma severity at the moderate to mild end of the severity spectrum. We recommend their use for both clinical assessment and research.