Managing problematic severe asthma: beyond the guidelines

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Abstract

This review discusses issues related to managing problematic severe asthma in children and young people. A small minority of children have genuinely severe asthma symptoms which are difficult to control. Children with genuinely severe asthma need investigations and treatments beyond those described within conventional guidelines. However, the majority of children with poor symptom control despite high-intensity treatment achieve improvement in their asthma control once attention has been paid to the basics of asthma management. Basic asthma management requires optimisation of inhaler technique and treatment adherence, avoidance of environmental triggers and self-management education. It is also important that clinicians recognise risk factors that predispose patients to asthma exacerbations and potentially life-threatening attacks. These correctable issues need to be tackled in partnership with children and young people and their families. This requires a coordinated approach between professionals across healthcare settings. Establishing appropriate infrastructure for coordinated asthma care benefits not only those with problematic severe asthma, but also the wider asthma population as similar correctable issues exist for children with asthma of all severities. Investigation and management of genuine severe asthma requires specialist multidisciplinary expertise and a systematic approach to characterising patients’ asthma phenotypes and delivering individualised care. While inhaled corticosteroids continue to play a leading role in asthma therapy, new treatments on the horizon might further support phenotype-specific therapy.

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