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New asthma care 'could change millions of lives'

We're delighted that a quality standard is now in place for asthma. This will really help to improve the quality of care provided for one of the most common long-term conditions - so its no exaggeration to say that if this is successful, it could change millions of lives.

We're particularly pleased to see the inclusion of personal asthma action plans. People who have an action plan are four times less likely to need to be admitted to hospital, but only a tiny proportion of people with asthma are currently offered one. Making sure this is implemented will be the next key test of asthma care in the NHS.

– Emily Humphreys, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Asthma UK

Three deaths from asthma every day in Britain

Asthma is a long-term, inflammatory disorder which affecting the airways. Allergic asthma is the most common type and is triggered by antibodies produced in response to environmental allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or moulds.

Patient using an inhaler to treat asthma Credit: Press Association

There are currently more than 5.4 million people in the UK being treated for asthma and about 1.1 million of them are children. There were 1,131 deaths from asthma in the UK in 2009 (12 were children aged 14 years or under), which is, on average, 3 people per day.

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New standard of care for asthma patients in England

The health watchdog wants to change the way people with asthma are cared for and improve the quality of care patients receive. Among the 11 points set out by NICE are:

  • People with asthma receive a structured review at least annually
  • People aged 5 years or older with a severe or life-threatening acute asthma are given oral or intravenous steroids within 1 hour of seeing a doctor
  • People with severe, or 'difficult' asthma are offered an assessment by a multidisciplinary difficult asthma service

The new guidelines apply only in England.

Report: IVF birth 'doubles' asthma risk

An IVF birth more than doubles the likelihood of a child developing asthma, research has shown.

Children born after IVF doubles the risk of asthma, say researchers Credit: John Giles/PA Archive

In the most extreme cases the risk is increased almost five times, according to new study findings.

Children conceived with artificial help are also more likely to wheeze or take anti-asthmatic medicines by the age of five.

Scientists discovered the link after analysing data on 18,818 children from across the UK born between 2000 and 2002.

But they point out that the association may not be causal, and the chances of a child conceived after IVF treatment becoming asthmatic are still slim.

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What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways - the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.

Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways Credit: Clive Gee/PA Archive

When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways, the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten so that the airways become narrower and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell.

Sometimes, sticky mucus or phlegm builds up, which can further narrow the airways.

These reactions cause the airways to become narrower and irritated - making it difficult to breath and leading to symptoms of asthma.

New research 'could help prevent asthma'

This study is exciting because it opens up interesting new avenues of research that could tell us more about the relative role of genes, environment and gender in terms of asthma risk, and enable us use this information to potentially prevent asthma in the future.

– Leanne Metcalf, assistant director of research and practice at Asthma UK

New research on eczema 'welcome'

This news is very interesting and sheds light on how eczema from parents can ultimately affect their children.

This news will hopefully spur a new wave of research looking into the differences between the sexes and the role in which a child is likely to develop the disease.

Although a large proportion of children will simply 'grow out' of eczema, for many adults, this is not the case, so any new developments in understanding the disease are most welcome.

– Bevis Man, from the British Skin Foundation charity

New findings on allergies 'groundbreaking'

With these groundbreaking findings, we should see a change in the way we assess a child's risk of disease, asking girls for the allergy history of their mother and boys for that of their father.

This work also opens up novel areas for further research in the genetics of allergy as to why this sex dependent effect occurs and, if we can find the reason, we can try to find a way of preventing sex-specific disease.

– Professor Hasan Arshad, Southampton General Hospital
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