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May 11, 2022

Mapping out asthma control in children

Asthma affects over 200 million people worldwide, and is one of the most common chronic diseases among children. With new Canadian evidence available, researchers are able to link the severity of childhood asthma to long-term lung health.

Health Quality Council researcher Jacqueline Quail is a member of the Canadian Respiratory Research Network, a national network of respiratory health researchers. The network’s most recent findings on asthma control in young children were published in February’s Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

The research examined cohorts of young children in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec, all diagnosed with asthma before age five. Their initial asthma control in these first two years after diagnosis—a formative period for lung development—was initially assessed. Participants’ health records were then observed up to age 16. Using administrative health databases in each province, researchers were able to analyze appropriate data sources (such as prescription history, physician appointments and hospital visits) to map the trajectory of the disease in each child.

Results showed that children with good asthma control had a better trajectory for optimal lung health later in life. This included the use of corticosteroid inhalers, which can reduce lung inflammation; while some parents are hesitant to have their child use inhaled corticosteroids, research suggests this method can protect the lungs during these early years. Children may even outgrow their asthma entirely.

Alternatively, children with poor asthma control in the first two years were more likely to have poorer long-term lung health and increased use of health services (such as physician appointments and hospitalizations). This is likely due to damage caused by the asthma; chronically inflamed lungs may develop differently than lungs of children with good asthma control.

“By looking at the evidence, and in particular the health trajectory of these very young children as they grow into teens and young adults, we have gained more information about better ways to protect their lungs and prevent subsequent, more serious health problems,” said Quail.

“The pediatric asthma research supports the existing evidence, and adds to it by showing that not adequately controlling a child’s asthma (typically through the use of inhaled corticosteroids) at a young age can lead to continued problems with asthma into their teen and young adult years.”

From there, Quail added, parents can have a better-informed discussion with their physician about how best to manage their very young child’s asthma.