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Hospital readmissions for asthma on the rise among children

Hospital readmissions for asthma are increasing among children, according to a new study, highlighting the gaps in health care for the most common chronic paediatric illness.

The study, led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and published in the Journal of Asthma, found about one in three children, mostly pre-schoolers, are readmitted to hospital for asthma compared to one in five a decade ago.

Murdoch Children’s Dr Katherine Chen said most asthma hospital presentations were preventable, emphasising the need for a holistic evaluation of each child’s asthma management to prevent future readmissions.

The study involved 767 children, aged three to 18 years, who were admitted to three hospitals in Victoria between 2017-2018 with a diagnosis of asthma. It found 34.3 per cent were readmitted to hospital for asthma, with those aged three to five years accounting for 69.2 per cent. Of the 767 participants, 20.6 per cent were readmitted once and 13.7 per cent had two or more readmissions in 12 months.

“Our study highlighted gaps in the children’s asthma care,” Dr Chen said. Over a third of children hadn’t had a review of their inhaler technique and only about a quarter were prescribed a preventer or asked to continue using it.

“Almost three quarters were discharged without a preventer medication and over 80 per cent did not have a follow-up clinic booked at the hospital, often reserved for children with difficult to control asthma. Most families therefore need to navigate their child’s asthma follow-up with their GP.”

Dr Chen said there had also been a recent spike in asthma admissions due to the rise in respiratory infections and children lacking immunity to common viruses following COVID-19 lockdowns.

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