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Alert on asthma risk factors

GPs should raise their awareness of the major risk factors for asthma and use objective tests when diagnosing the illness, according to the new guidelines.

Key risk factors are listed that GPs should consider whenever a patient presents with asthma symptoms.

They include a co-existence of allergic disease, such as eczema and allergic rhinitis, a family history of allergy, bronchiolitis in infancy, maternal smoking, low birthweight, age and gender. Objective tests, such as peak flow measurements, should be used to confirm a diagnosis before starting long-term therapy and GPs should consider referring patients with additional symptoms for a chest X-ray, the guidelines state.

Dr John Haughney, a GP in East Kilbride and chair of the guideline's diagnosis and natural history review group, said: 'The guidelines will put asthma back on the map. There are five million people in the UK with asthma. It is the most common reason for consulting a GP. One-third of sufferers are disturbed by their asthma at least once a week. If properly managed, you can go a long way to help people live normal lives.'

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