New research shows that more than half of children being treated for asthma may not actually have the respiratory condition. The study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, reveals that 53% of children had no clinical signs of asthma despite being diagnosed at one of four medical centers in the Netherlands, whose healthcare system is regarded as one of the best in Europe, according to The Independent.

The UK’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) has warned that physicians have too often diagnosed asthma based on a history of wheezing, coughs, and breathing problems rather than clinical tests, The Independent reported.

“Previous studies have indicated that asthma is over-diagnosed in children. However, the scale of the over-diagnosis has not been quantified,” says Ingrid Looijmans-van den Akker, MD, one of the study’s scientists. “Over-diagnosis of asthma was found in more than half of the children, leading to unnecessary treatment, disease burden, and impact on their quality of life.” Looijmans-van den Akker adds that only in a few children was an asthma diagnosis confirmed using lung function tests despite this being recommended by international guidelines.

Looijmans-van den Akker states, “Over-diagnosis gives rise to over-prescription and incorrect use of medication, and to anxiety in parents and children.” Additionally, the Independent reports that in the UK last year, researchers found that a third of adults diagnosed with asthma did not actually have it.

Mark Baker, director of clinical practice at Nice, says the group is developing new advice on how to properly diagnose asthma. “As part of this work, Nice is inviting GP practices to take part in a project to check the feasibility of some diagnostic tests that Nice proposes to recommend,” Baker said.

“It is also a highly variable condition that can change throughout someone’s life or even week by week, meaning treatment also needs to change over time,” explains Dan Murphy of Asthma UK. “Parents of children with asthma must work in partnership with their GP or nurse to build a picture of their child’s asthma to tailor their treatment.”

Source: The Independent