NIH asthma panel creates new guidelines stressing prevention, regular monitoring

WASHINGTON An asthma panel convened by the National Institutes of Health released new guidelines Wednesday, including recommendations that asthma should be controlled on a daily basis and not simply treated during attacks, according to USA Today.

The guidelines, created by the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, also recommend treatment differences for three age groups—0-4, 5-11 and 12 and older—whereas the NIH only previously recognized two. Panel member Robert Lemanske of the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, stated that studies now show children under 12 are best treated with low-dose inhaled corticosteroids rather than drug combinations more effective in older children and adults.

"What's new is the emphasis on prevention," says Elizabeth Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. "In the past, physicians might have waited until symptoms were very severe before intervening."

A greater emphasis is also being placed on monitoring the disease, rather than just treating it. The guidelines recommend that doctors routinely test lung function and assess each patient’s needs on a unique basis. Anyone treating the patients should also make certain that they know how to use their medication and devices. "Probably one of the most important things," Lemanske said, "is to see patients on a regular basis, not just when they're sick, but when they're doing OK." This will enable health care professionals to track the severity of the symptoms over time.