Health professionals can use a new chart to determine if children aged three to seven are likely to develop asthma, it has been announced.
The chart works by allowing nurses to compare a child's lung function with others of their age after they complete a spirometry test. By measuring how much breath is expelled, the test can detect weaknesses which could lead to asthma. Health professionals can then use the chart to monitor the effect of any treatment the child tries.
Data was drawn from more than 10,000 children in 11 countries and is the largest collection of lung function measurements in very young children in the world. In the UK alone more than five million people have asthma, and one million of those are children.
Researchers at University College London, funded by charity Asthma UK, say the chart should be used like those which measure body mass index (BMI).
Dr Sanja Stanojevic, lead author on the paper, said: "We hope that this diagnostic "gold standard" will soon be incorporated into commonly-used lung function equipment so that researchers and doctors worldwide can use them to improve diagnosis and treatment of pre-school children."
"I have asked my colleagues if they use spirometry on young children, in view of the most recent guidelines, and was not surprised to hear that they do not. It worries me that if we start to use this tool in future children will be labelled incorrectly due to poor technique coupled with poor care" - Ruth Adams, Bromley