Despite impovements in the understanding of the pathophysiology of asthma, there is still no cure and it remains the most common long-term medical condition. According to Asthma UK, 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children one in 11) and 4.3 million adults (one in 12).1
It is difficult to define asthma, as there is an absence of a 'gold standard' definition. The British Thoracic Society (BTS) and The Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) have produced a collaborative and comprehensive guideline on the management of asthma in the UK.2 They clearly state that, in the absence of a clear definition, it is in turn difficult to diagnose the condition.
There is a consensus, however, about key features that need to be present to diagnose asthma. The patient should have more than one of four symptoms: wheeze, breathlessness, chest tightness, cough (especially at night) plus demonstrate variable airflow obstruction.2
Diagnosing asthma in children represents a great challenge to the clinician, as there are no definitive blood tests or radiological investigations that will confirm it. This can be difficult for parents to understand, as they want a diagnosis for their child when they present to their clinician in either primary or secondary care.