Survey finds half of allergic toddlers have signs of asthma

Approximately 50 percent of infants and preschoolers receiving medical treatment for allergies display preliminary symptoms of asthma, making them at high risk of developing the respiratory condition later in life, according to the results of a survey released yesterday.

The survey was conducted by Chang-Gung Memorial Children's Hospital on children up to five years of age who made recent outpatient visits to the hospital for allergies or asthma.

The survey found 30 percent of these patients had persistent asthma, while another 50 percent had preliminary symptoms of the respiratory condition -- such as frequent coughing and wheezing.

With the increased risk of respiratory illnesses in urbanized areas, as many as 95 percent of the parents surveyed were worried their children might develop asthma in future, the survey showed.

Huang Ching-lung, a pediatrist at the hospital, noted that between 50 percent and 80 percent of asthmatic children usually experience the first symptoms before the age of five, often more slight cases of intermittent asthma or respiratory tract allergies.

Children with these early symptoms may cough whenever they eat iced products, smell smoke and other smells, or after play or exercise. They may also have a night cough, making it difficult for them to get to sleep, Huang said.

As 85 percent of child cases of intermittent asthma are caused by a viral infection, many parents may ignore and mistake it for a flu, he said.

According to Huang, a cough caused by the flu will not usually continue for more than 10 days, and parents should be extra careful if their children is coughing for more than 10 days, or if the child's respiratory tract becomes overly sensitive.

Pointing out that approximately 60 percent of children with preliminary symptoms of asthma will develop asthma in the future, he urged parents to have their children medically diagnosed if they have a persistent cough or display wheezing symptoms more than three times a year.