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Deaths from childhood asthma, 2004–2013: what lessons can we learn?

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New South Wales data highlight areas for improvement in asthma management

The NSW Child Death Review Team annual report 2013 included an analysis of deaths from asthma during the 10-year period 2004–2013.1 A total of 20 children, aged up to 17 years, died from asthma in New South Wales. While this death rate was low, and therefore the findings need to be interpreted cautiously, lessons from the analysis can be extrapolated to help reduce morbidity and mortality associated with asthma in children. The main findings were:

  • deaths from asthma among children were rare, and more common in older children
  • there has been a recent increase in deaths, the cause of which is not clear
  • risk factors include low socioeconomic status, psychosocial problems, and Asian and Pacific Islander backgrounds
  • all the children who died had been diagnosed with asthma; most had persistent asthma and were atopic; seven had a history of food allergy (five confirmed on skin prick testing); and three had a history of anaphylaxis and had been prescribed or had used an adrenaline autoinjector
  • younger children were more likely to be hospitalised and less likely to die, and older children were less likely to be hospitalised and more likely to die
  • three-quarters of those who died had been hospitalised in the previous 5 years and 11 had been hospitalised in the…