Attendances at the accident and emergency department of a children's hospital for treatment of acute asthma were studied for one year to determine the characteristics of the children attending and their management. Eight hundred and twenty children, median age 5.5 years, made 1389 visits. Records were available from 1046 visits. Clinical information and assessment of the severity of the attack in the department was often inadequate. Peak flow records were available for 366 (35%). Attendances were most frequent in September and during the evening, but there was no significant day to day variation. Eight hundred and three children (78%) were self referred. Before attendance 962 (92%) had used a bronchodilator, including nebulised salbutamol (11%); 2% had taken prednisolone and 21% antibiotics. Five hundred and sixteen visits (49%) led to admission and 19% of those admitted required intravenous treatment. Probably some children who at present attend hospital for treatment of acute asthma could be managed at home, but this cannot be assumed without better understanding of the reasons for hospital attendance. More information is needed.
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