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Asthma: who should be screened?

Asthma: who should be screened?

New methods of screening could allow for more targeted treatment, but would not necessarily prevent all asthma attacks

Posted: 11 May 2016

If you’ve missed yesterday’s episode of this week’s feature on asthma, click here.

Writer: Saša Jankovic

Genetic screening for asthma could help prevent attacks, but we are not quite there yet.

Who should be screened?

In relation to the Aberdeen study test, Iles says the gene frequency “is not yet determined accurately enough to be specific – so much more work is required to work this out”, and Dr Charles Godden, consultant paediatrician and honorary medical adviser for the British Lung Foundation, agrees. He says: “In my opinion, no child should be screened for asthma at the moment as there is not enough proven clinical benefit for the cost associated with it.”

According to Godden, the problem of diagnosis is that “every few years the goalposts move, so it depends what you mean by asthma, as that definition changes all the time. For example, I see hundreds of parents every year who want to know if their child has asthma, and I explain that what matters more is whether they are on the right treatment for now, because in time it will become obvious.”

Another factor to bear in mind is that “50 per cent of children under five cough and wheeze”, says Godden, “but we don’t want to go and diagnose 50 per cent of our children as having asthma. In the preschool child sometimes asthma is a secure diagnosis because of family history and/or if the child is allergic and responds to treatment, but sometimes it’s uncertain because what they have are episodes of wheeze that may not continue – so we need to be cautious of labeling them as asthmatic [because] this wheezing can either be ‘viral induced wheeze’ (that comes with colds), or ‘multi-trigger wheeze’ (which is in between colds and tends to respond better to steroids).”

Join us tomorrow for the fourth episode of this week’s feature as we’ll be discussing further prevention of asthma

To keep up to date with the latest developments and to receive updates on how Asthma UK is working with healthcare professionals to improve asthma care visit: www.asthma.org.uk/professionals/sign-up or call Asthma UK's Helpline on 0300 222 5800 to speak to the charity's expert asthma nurses who are here to support healthcare professionals.