Symptom perception and functional morbidity across a 1-year follow-up in pediatric asthma



The purpose of this study was to examine the association between asthma symptom perception measured during a 5–6 week baseline and functional morbidity measured prospectively across a 1-year follow-up. Symptom perception was measured by comparing subjective ratings with peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1). We hypothesized that accurate symptom perception (ASP) would be associated with less functional morbidity. Participants consisted of 198 children with asthma ages 7–17 recruited from three sites. The children used a programmable electronic spirometer in the home setting to guess their PEFR prior to exhalation. Each “subjective” guess was classified as being in an ASP, dangerous symptom perception (DSP; underestimation of symptoms), or symptom magnification (SM; overestimation) zone based upon the corresponding measurement of PEFR or FEV1. An index of functional morbidity was collected by parent report at baseline and across 1-year follow-up. A greater proportion of ASP blows and a lower proportion of DSP blows based on PEFR predicted less functional morbidity reported at baseline, independent of asthma severity and race/ethnicity. A greater proportion of ASP blows (using PEFR and FEV1) and a lower proportion of SM blows (using FEV1) predicted less functional morbidity across 1-year follow-up. Symptom perception was not associated with emergency department visits for asthma at baseline or across follow-up. In comparison to PEFR, FEV1 more frequently detected a decline in pulmonary function that children did not report. Symptom perception measured in naturalistic settings was associated with functional morbidity at baseline and prospectively across 1-year follow-up. Support was found for including multiple measures of pulmonary function in the assessment of asthma symptom perception. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2007; 42:339–347. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.