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A faulty production line

Fewer children have acute asthma

Acute asthma episodes in children are at their lowest since the mid-1980s, according to new RCGP statistics.

Data from the college's weekly returns service ­ based on a practice population of around 600,000 ­ showed acute episodes rose dramatically between 1980 and 1993, before falling off again rapidly.

The researchers ruled out genetics, family size, air quality, reductions in passive smoking, and the social effects of nurseries as causal factors, but said the pattern mirrored that for respiratory tract infections.

Study co-author Dr Douglas Fleming, director of the RCGP's Birmingham Research Unit, said: 'There is plenty of evidence that respiratory viruses are found in patients who have asthma attacks ­ patterns of asthma have followed the downward trend in respiratory infections.'

He added: 'People have said the large number of prescriptions are keeping the level of asthma down ­ but this is not a sufficient explanation.'

The study was published in Archives of Disease in Childhood (March).

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