By the second decade of life asthma symptoms often abate and it may seem that patients with mild asthma have "outgrown" the disease. Unfortunately this is likely to be the exception rather than the rule. Although the severity of asthma symptoms fluctuates with time, the inherited tendency towards respiratory symptoms never disappears and many teenagers who seem to be free of symptoms do, in fact, have persistent asthma. During symptom-free periods subclinical, but nevertheless significant, airways obstruction and/or bronchial hyperresponsiveness may be present. It is not unusual for adults who have been asymptomatic for a number of years to redevelope asthma symptoms. Indeed, much of the so-called adult onset asthma has its roots in childhood. Levison concluded that, in these subjects, it is often not the asthma that is outgrown but the paediatrician. The more severe astham is in childhood the more likely it is that the disease will persist in adulthood. A complete list of the characteristics of the disease in childhood, and the potential risk factors associated with an unfavourable prognosis, such as pulmonary function and bronchial responsiveness and markers of airway inflammation, is therefore needed. As properly matched and controlled prospective long term studies have not been published it has not been possible to evaluate the effects on prognosis of any single class of antiasthma agent. Such studies are needed to find out if it is possible to alter the natural history of the disease. In theory modern asthma treatments, because they are able to improve symptoms and underlying disease phenomena, are also beneficial in the long term prognosis of childhood asthma. The majority of patients with persistent asthma included in the currently available studies were not receiving adequate treatment. Since compliance with therapeutic regimens in asthma, especially in adolescence, is low, a monitoring system is needed to guarantee adequate follow up and treatment during and beyond puberty.
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