A survey of cases of asthma in two general practices with a special interest in the disease identified 212 asthmatic children aged 0-16 years by the end of January 1989 who had been registered in that practice since birth. Delay in diagnosis, both in terms of time (median 2.95 years) and number of consultations (median 7), was considerable. Annual rates of consultations for respiratory symptoms that were initiated by the patients fell significantly after diagnosis (median before = 1.80, after = 0.95 consultations/year), but the number initiated by the doctors rose significantly (median before = 0, after = 1.01 consultations/year). The overall rates before and after diagnosis were not significantly different (median before = 2.04, after = 2.21 consultations/year). Increased efforts are required to reduce this delay thereby minimising the morbidity of asthma in childhood.
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