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Latest evidence based guidelines on asthma diagnosis and treatment have been released, with key changes in paediatric care.

The National Asthma Council Australia has released a major update of its online Australian Asthma Handbook, the national guidelines for diagnosis and management of asthma in primary care.

The Handbook is an evidence based practical resource for GPs, nurses and pharmacists that supports a team approach to improving asthma outcomes in partnership with patients and their families.

The latest edition is the first major review of the Handbook since it went online in 2014.

Major changes in this latest edition include management of childhood asthma, acute asthma management and primary prevention, National Asthma Council Australia Nurse Educator Marg Gordon said.

“There are changes to recommended practice. The message is for nurses to become familiar with the new sections of the Asthma Handbook. At the front there’s a ‘What’s new’ page that highlights and provides a summary of the key changes.”

Management of asthma in children is now divided into two age ranges: 1-5 years and six years and over, to clarify asthma diagnosis and classification in these age groups.

“The biggest change to the management of those aged 0-12 months is not by their GP. Management by a specialist for this age group is recommended. It’s really about clarifying the diagnosis in that age group,” Ms Gordon said.

Respiratory problems in babies are often caused by bronchiolitis rather than asthma, according to respiratory experts.

The diagnosis and treatment of childhood asthma can be challenging in very young children and correct asthma management is critical, especially for those under five, Ms Gordon said.

More than half of the estimated 40,000 annual asthma hospitalisations in Australia involve children aged 0-14, peaking at ages 0-4 years.

A full review for children with asthma during the summer school holidays is recommended in an effort to reduce the peak in attacks that occurs at the start of the new school year.

Also included is the latest evidence on primary prevention of asthma and updated guidance on managing acute asthma in clinical settings.

“This includes revision of oxygen therapy and updates on medication recommendations for life threatening events. There is a new table on Primary Prevention of Asthma. This is a ‘go to’ table with an easy to read format for all types of asthma,” Ms Gordon said.

There has also been a revision of discharge advice.

“Anyone that has been in hospital for asthma is recommended to have an appointment with their GP within three days of discharge; and another review with their GP in 3-4 weeks. The importance of that is trying to stop people presenting back to hospital with acute asthma.”

It was also important to point out updated guidelines on thunderstorm asthma, she added. “While thunderstorm asthma occurs in the southern states, it was a major killer in 2016 and many in the acute sector and in primary care were faced with people who were more ill with asthma than they have ever encountered.”

A consumer friendly resource has been released alongside the revised health professional guidelines.

The ‘My Asthma Guide’ is in plainer language for consumers and in line with the revised Asthma Handbook.

The Australian Asthma Handbook is endorsed by peak health professional bodies working in asthma, including the Royal Australian College of GPs, Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

My Asthma Guide and other resources are available free on the National Asthma Council website

The Australian Asthma Handbook 2.0 and a list of amendments is available at