A leading paediatrician has warned.
Children with asthma are being prescribed a mix of medication that has the potential to be life threatening, warns Peter van Asperen, professor of paediatric respiratory medicine at Sydney University.
Mr Asperen told The Sydney Morning Herald that GPs are “over-prescribing the combination of inhaled corticosteroid (a preventor) and long acting beta-agonist (a reliever) to asthmatic children.”
This is “unnecessarily” risking their lives, he warned.
“The evidence for the benefits of the combination therapy are limited. Also, a downside is you lose the effectiveness of short-acting beta-agonists (such as Ventolin). If you lose the effectiveness, then you may be at risk of more flare ups, which could potentially lead to death,” Mr Asperen continued.
He said that GPs shouldn’t be prescribing these combinations of medications as a “first-line” preventer for children with asthma.
This combination should be reserved as an option for “step-up” treatment in children with severe symptoms who don’t respond to “simpler” medication.
Mr Asperen explained that GPs are failing to meet the guidelines set up the National Asthma Council Australia's Australian Asthma Handbook – which states for children five and under LABAs should not be used.
"They are only suitable for a sub-population of patients. There has been a recent increase in deaths, the cause of which is not clear,” he said.
20 children up to 17 years of age in NSW suffered fatal asthma attacks between 2004 and 2013, states the NSW Child Death Review Team annual report 2013 which was released last October.
Yet what is more alarming is the report shows a recent spike, with half of the 20 death occurring in the last two years.
Mr Asperen said parents were also increasing the risk of death by doing the following:
- Not using asthma medications as recommended.
- Not actively seeking out specialists.
- Not following asthma action and management plans.
"The records of nine children who died indicated that asthma medications were not being used as recommended - intermittent preventer use in eight cases, irregular reliever use in one case," he said.
Disclaimer: If you have any concerns about your child's health, please consult your local GP for further information.
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