Guidelines

Guideline for the management of acute asthma in children: 2013 update

S Kling, H J Zar, M E Levin, R J Green, P M Jeena, S M Risenga, S A Thula, P Goussard, R P Gie, for the South African Childhood Asthma Working Group (SACAWG)

Abstract


Background. Acute asthma exacerbations remain a common cause of hospitalisation and healthcare utilisation in South African children.

Aim. To update the South African paediatric acute asthma guidelines according to current evidence, and produce separate recommendations for children above and below 2 years of age.

Methods. A working group of the South African Childhood Asthma Group was established to review the published literature on acute asthma in children from 2000 to 2012, and to revise the South African guidelines accordingly.

Recommendations. Short-acting inhaled bronchodilators remain the first-line treatment of acute asthma. A metered-dose inhaler with spacer is preferable to nebulisation for bronchodilator therapy to treat mild to moderate asthma. Two to four puffs of a short-acting bronchodilator given every 20 - 30 minutes, depending on clinical response, should be given for mild attacks; up to 10 puffs may be needed for more severe asthma. Children with severe asthma or oxygen saturation (SpO2) <92% should receive oxygen and frequent doses of nebulised beta-2-agonists, and be referred to hospital. Nebulised ipratropium bromide (via nebulisation or multidosing via pMDI-spacer combination) should be added if there is a poor response to three doses of β2-agonist or if the symptoms are severe. Early use of corticosteroids reduces the need for hospital admission and prevents relapse; oral therapy is preferable. Assessment of acute asthma in children below the age of 2 years can be difficult, and other causes of wheezing must be excluded. Treatment of acute asthma in this age group is similar to that of older children.

Conclusion. Effective therapy for treatment of acute asthma – primarily inhaled short-acting β2-agonists, oral corticosteroids and oxygen with appropriate delivery systems – should be available in all healthcare facilities and rapidly instituted for treatment of acute asthma in children.

Endorsement. The guideline document was endorsed by the Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA), the South African Thoracic Society (SATS), the National Asthma Education Programme (NAEP), the South African Paediatric Association (SAPA) and the South African Academy of Family Practice.

Authors' affiliations

S Kling, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Children’s Hospital, Parow, Cape Town

H J Zar, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, University of Cape Town

M E Levin, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, University of Cape Town

R J Green, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Steve Biko Academic Hospital, University of Pretoria

P M Jeena, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

S M Risenga, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Limpopo

S A Thula, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

P Goussard, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Children’s Hospital, Parow, Cape Town

R P Gie, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Children’s Hospital, Parow, Cape Town

for the South African Childhood Asthma Working Group (SACAWG),

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Keywords

Acute asthma; guidelines; management; children

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2013;103(3):199-207. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.6658

Article History

Date submitted: 2013-01-29
Date published: 2013-02-05

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