Study: children with asthma are more likely to be prescribed unnecessary antibiotics
A study recently presented at the ERS international congress 2017 points out the dangers of overuse of antibiotics in children with this asthma.
Parents of children with asthma know how hard it is to keep their children from getting an acute bout. Asthma is a chronic, lifelong condition where the airways are allergic to certain allergens. and when triggered, they narrow down due to inflammation. When that happens, the child has a difficulty in breathing. And in some cases, the child needs hospitalisation.
The study on antibiotics in Asthma
The study was presented at the recently held European Respiratory Society's International Congress at Milan, Italy. It has two main findings. The first one is that the symptoms of the condition are often mistaken as those of a respiratory infection, and the children are medicated with antibiotics. The second and the more grave is, serious cases of asthma are treated with antibiotics even though they are of little use. To make matters worse, the clinical management guidelines do not support this!
To find out the effect of asthmatic conditions on the prescription patterns, over 1.5 million children in the UK including around 150,000 with asthma, and a further 375,000 from The Netherlands, including around 30,000 with asthma were studied. It was found that the children with Asthma were 1.6 times more likely to receive an antibiotic prescription for a respiratory condition than those without it.
Antibiotics and asthma
An antibiotic is prescribed to combat a bacterial infection. So, it may not be useful when there is no infection present. Now, the downside to overprescription of antibiotics is resistance. Not every antibiotic disarms every bacteria. The surviving bacteria may end up developing a resistance against the antibiotic. And when the actual need arises, that particular antibiotic might be rendered useless.
According to Dr Esmé Baan, the presenter of the study, antibiotics in asthma need to be used with caution. She urges doctors to diagnose the condition correctly. And in addition, she mentions that antibiotics are not recommended in deterioration of asthmatic symptoms, as it is rarely associated with a bacterial infection.
Dr Baan says,
"Antibiotics should only be given when there is clear evidence of a bacterial infection such as for pneumonia. However, we saw that, in children with asthma, most of the antibiotic prescriptions in children were intended for asthma exacerbations or bronchitis, which are often caused by a virus rather than bacteria."
Asthma in Singapore
Asthma has risen over the past 50 years in Singapore. According to an article published by Associate Professor Mariko Koh, Singapore General Hosptial, there is a rising tide of Allergy epidemic in Singapore. A survey was conducted among university students in Singapore. 80% percent of them had allergen sensitisation and 18% reported asthma. This makes Singapore the Asthma capital of the world!
Sadly, there are large cases of undiagnosed asthma in Singapore. They worsen over a period of time and end up becoming quite complicated by the time the person seeks medical attention. Not only is it on a rise in local population, expats who come and settle down end up showing symptoms of allergy, that strengthens every year.
Simply put, your child may have developed asthma, and you may not know it.
How to find out of your child has asthma
Asthma is an allergic condition. It is even more difficult to find out about asthma in children, especially those under 5 years of age. The child may not be routinely screened for this, and so, it is up to the parents to spot the symptoms early on.
According to the Asthma UK, your child is more likely to suffer from Asthma if
- they were born early (premature), especially if they needed help with their breathing
- they had a low birth weight
- their mother smoked during pregnancy
- they also have eczema or allergies
- there’s a family history of asthma, eczema, hay fever or other allergies (known as ‘atopy’)
- they are exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke or pollution
- they’ve had repeated bouts of bronchiolitis or croup as a baby or toddler
The symptoms of Asthma in children
- wheezing (whistling like noise from the chest)
- Frequent coughing that may lead to vomiting at times
- difficulty breathing
- a tight, sore feeling in their chest (children often describe this as 'chest hurting' or 'tummy ache').
However, it is not always asthma. Even if your child has these symptoms, it may be due to a cough, cold, or viral infection. That said, it is always wise to get him assessed than ignoring the symptoms.