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22-04-2010 | Respiratory | Article

Parental reports overestimate wheezing in children


Free abstract

MedWire News: Parental reports of asthma-like symptoms in preschool children should be confirmed by doctors wherever possible, say researchers who found that parents generally overestimate the prevalence of such symptoms.

“The prevalence of asthma symptoms among preschool children is difficult to determine with accuracy because no gold standard is available for diagnosis,” explain Ashna Mohangoo (University Medical Center Rotterdam, The Netherlands) and team.

In the current study, the researchers compared differences in the estimated prevalence of wheezing and shortness of breath among 1202 children aged 12–14 months using questionnaires completed by parents and interviews of the parents by doctors.

Half of the infants were boys, 8.6% were receiving asthma medication, and 3.2% had abnormal respiratory sounds.

The researchers found that estimated prevalence of wheezing and shortness of breath among the children was 36% using data from the parental questionnaire, compared with just 20% using data from the interviews conducted by doctors, with observed agreement of 73%.

Agreement on the presence of wheezing or shortness of breath was observed in 41% of parents who reported these symptoms in the questionnaire and in 73% of parents who reported these symptoms in the interview.

Compared with infants in the subgroup with agreement on the presence of wheezing or shortness of breath, those in the subgroup without agreement were significantly less likely to be receiving asthma medication (38.9% vs 3.9%) and were less likely to have abnormal respiratory sounds, bronchiolitis, or croup.

Furthermore, the proportion of infants receiving asthma medication was higher in interview-data compared with questionnaire-data (22.7% vs 3.9%).

Mohangoo and team conclude in the journal Pediatric Pulmonology: “Questionnaire yielded higher prevalence rates for wheezing or shortness of breath than physician interview. Our study indicated that parent-reported symptoms through questionnaires are associated with a lower proportion of infants receiving anti-asthma medication.”

They add: “Since wheezing and shortness of breath are non-specific for asthma at such a young age, we recommend confirming parent-reported asthma symptoms by pediatricians whenever possible.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Mark Cowen

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