NIH issues new asthma guidelinesNew clinical guidelines for treating asthma emphasize helping patients manage their disease and recognize that some children have unique needs.

The evidence-based guidelines (sponsored by NIH) are the first update in a decade. They address three age groups—0-4 years, 5-11 years, and 12 or older—instead of two. Earlier versions lumped the 5- to 11-year-olds with adults, but emerging evidence shows they respond to medication differently than older and younger patients.

In other instances, standard practices were left unchanged. “Many of the earlier recommendations have been confirmed by research,” says William W. Busse, MD, chairman of the guidelines panel and of the Department of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. “For instance, inhaled corticosteroids are still the best long-term control treatment for asthma patients of all ages because they effectively reduce inflammation.”

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The guidelines stress the importance of teaching patients to self-monitor and to use a written action plan that includes both daily treatments and instructions for handling severe attacks.

Recommendations reaffirm that patients with persistent asthma require both long-term control therapies and quick-relief drugs for symptoms as needed.