Asthma Management Issues in Infancy and Childhood
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The prevalence of asthma has been increasing worldwide over the past 2 decades, especially the prevalence of childhood asthma. Currently, the prevalence of childhood asthma is around 3–20% in different countries based on the report from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Children (ISAAC). Asthma in childhood is predominantly an extrinsic asthma. In general, countries in the coastal, temperate, and subtropical zones have the highest prevalence of mite- and cockroach-sensitive asthma. Countries in the sub-arctic or semi-arid areas have a lower prevalence of childhood asthma, mostly associated with sensitization to pet dander, moulds, and pollens. Many genes have been linked to asthma in different ethnic populations. A global consensus for the management of asthma in adults and children >5 years of age has been made possible in the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) guidelines, where a step-wise management program using inhaled medication with and without oral anti-inflammatory drugs is recommended. The management of asthma in children <5 years of age remains inconclusive. Recent studies suggest that inherited susceptibility associated with risk factors from the prenatal and postnatal environment is likely to promote allergic sensitization and development of asthma. Consequently, early prevention of prenatal sensitization in utero and environmental control of early life exposure to various allergens may decrease the incidence of childhood asthma. In the management of moderate persistent asthma in infants and young children <5 years of age, airway resistance tests (FEV1 or PEF) are not of significance, but assessment of respiratory rate and skin pulse oximeter measurements of arterial oxygen saturation are helpful. Moreover, recent advances in pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics may provide better individualized care for early pharmacological prevention of childhood asthma via selective modulation of airway remodeling.