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Keywords:

  • allergy;
  • childhood factors;
  • clinical characteristics;
  • diet;
  • severe asthma;
  • symptoms

Summary

Background Severe and difficult to treat asthma impairs health status and accounts for about half of asthma expenditure. In 1994, a European Network For Understanding Mechanisms of Severe Asthma (ENFUMOSA) was formed. A large group of patients from nine European countries has been selected.

Objective To examine the risk factors and symptoms associated with a phenotype of severe/difficult to treat asthma.

Methods The present report presents data assessed through the use of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS) Questionnaire in 148 mild–moderate controlled and 155 severe asthmatics from the ENFUMOSA group.

Results There is a negative association of severe asthma with reported allergy and with a family history of allergy (Odds ratio (OR)=0.45). Sharing a bedroom before the age of five is associated with a higher risk of severe asthma (OR=1.5) while childhood infections, play school attendance and exposure to allergens or animals are not. A larger proportion of severe asthma patients report symptoms at work (OR=2.7) or have to change jobs (OR=4.3) and fewer severe than mild patients are currently employed (OR=0.39). Smoking and exposure to smoke is similar in mild and severe asthma. Dietary habits do not differ between the groups, but severe asthmatics report eating less savoury snacks and there is a trend for lower intake of sweets.

Conclusions Analysis of the ECRHS questionnaire in the ENFUMOSA study shows that severe asthma patients experience more symptoms and their health status is impaired by their inability to work and perhaps eat freely. Personal and maternal history of allergy is associated with mild but not severe asthma. Other than sharing a bedroom before the age of 5 years, no childhood exposure risk factors associated with severe asthma could be identified from this analysis.