A new research has suggested that half a million of children diagnosed with asthma may not actually have the condition.
More than one million children have been diagnosed with asthma in Britain, but the new study indicates that more than half of the children do not have the condition and are receiving unnecessary treatment.
The study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, said that researchers from the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, The Netherlands, looked at the medical records of 656 children diagnosed with asthma at four centres. It was later found that 53 per cent had no clinical signs of the condition.
The authors, led by Ingrid Looijmans-van den Akker, said in their conclusion: “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.
“Previous studies have indicated that asthma is over-diagnosed in children. However, the scale of has not been quantified.
“Only in a few children was the diagnosis of asthma confirmed using lung function tests, despite this being recommended in international guidelines.
“Over-diagnosis gives rise to over-prescription and incorrect use of medication, and to anxiety in parents and children.”
Meanwhile, Dan Murphy, Director of External Affairs at Asthma UK, said it was often difficult to get a definitive diagnose for asthma.
“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.
“For example, children whose asthma is triggered by pollen may have no symptoms during an annual asthma review in winter and present completely differently in the summer.
"It’s important parents of children with asthma work in partnership with their GP or nurse to build a complete picture of their child’s asthma to tailor their treatment.
“It is vital that no parent of a child with an asthma diagnosis stops them taking their medication on the basis of this information, without discussions with their doctor,” he added.
Asthma, which is a chronic inflammatory respiratory disease, usually starts affecting people from childhood. Victims often suffer from attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, with the frequency of attacks varying from person to person.
In 2011, 1,167 deaths from asthma were recorded, with 18 of these being children aged 14 and under, Telegraph.co.uk has said.