The UK's most popular inhaler used to combat asthma may fail to prevent attacks in more than 100,000 children who carry a gene mutation, according to research.
Salbutamol, also known under its brand name ventolin, could have little effect in combating the illness, a study carried out by researchers from Brighton and Sussex Medical School and the University of Dundee found.
Children with a gene change called Arg16 were at a 30% increased risk of asthma attacks compared with those with a normal form of the gene.
All children in the group were taking salbutamol, often referred to as the "blue" inhaler, as a reliever for asthma attacks. Many were also on a longer-acting inhaler to control symptoms in the long term.
Nevertheless, the experts stressed that parents should not panic and children should carry on taking salbutamol until more research is carried out. And they said it may be possible in the future to screen youngsters for the gene change via a simple saliva test.
Around a million children have asthma in the UK, of which around one in 10 are thought to be affected by the genetic change.
"Since when does salbutamol prevent asthma attacks? The inhaled steriods are the inhalers that are more likely with regular use to help prevent, that's why they are often called preventers, and salbutamol is classed as reliever" – Nina Duddleston, Norfolk