The increasing burden of asthma in South African children : a call to action

21 Sep 2018

BACKGROUND : Asthma is a heterogeneous condition characterised by chronic inflammation and variable expiratory airflow limitation, as well as airway reversibility. The burden of asthma in children is increasing in low- and middle-income countries and remains underrecognised and poorly managed. OBJECTIVES : To quantify the burden of asthma in the South African (SA) population and identify the risk factors associated with disease severity in the local context. METHODS : The SA Childhood Asthma Working Group (SACAWG) convened in January 2017 with task groups, each headed by a section leader, constituting the editorial committee on assessment of asthma epidemiology, diagnosis, control, treatments, novel treatments and self-management plans. The epidemiology task group reviewed the available scientific literature and assigned evidence according to the Grades of Recommendation Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system. CONCLUSIONS : Asthma in children remains a common condition, which has shown an increasing prevalence in urban and rural populations of SA. Of concern is that almost half of children in urban communities experience severe asthma symptoms, and many asthmatics lack a formal diagnosis and thus access to treatment. Exposure to tobacco smoke and living in highly polluted areas increase the severity of wheezing in young children.