BACKGROUND : Asthma is a heterogeneous condition characterised by chronic inflammation and variable expiratory airflow limitation,
as well as airway reversibility. The burden of asthma in children is increasing in low- and middle-income countries and remains underrecognised
and poorly managed.
OBJECTIVES : To quantify the burden of asthma in the South African (SA) population and identify the risk factors associated with disease
severity in the local context.
METHODS : The SA Childhood Asthma Working Group (SACAWG) convened in January 2017 with task groups, each headed by a section
leader, constituting the editorial committee on assessment of asthma epidemiology, diagnosis, control, treatments, novel treatments and
self-management plans. The epidemiology task group reviewed the available scientific literature and assigned evidence according to the
Grades of Recommendation Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system.
CONCLUSIONS : Asthma in children remains a common condition, which has shown an increasing prevalence in urban and rural populations
of SA. Of concern is that almost half of children in urban communities experience severe asthma symptoms, and many asthmatics lack
a formal diagnosis and thus access to treatment. Exposure to tobacco smoke and living in highly polluted areas increase the severity of
wheezing in young children.