To study the frequency of corticosteroid therapy and the use of inpatient care for preschool children with wheezing in two regions in Finland.
The Finnish Social Insurance Institution database on refundable asthma medication indicated that 1.18% of children in Tampere and 2.37% in Turku used inhaled corticosteroids regularly. To clarify the difference, hospital records of 800 randomly chosen 0.5-6.9-year-old children who had been treated for wheezing in Tampere or Turku University Hospital during 1995-1996 were retrospectively analysed.
The incidences of wheezing-related emergency room (ER) index visits were 11.0 visits/year/1000 children both in Tampere and Turku. Oral corticosteroids were given to 2.5% versus 24.2% of children in ER and 10.6% versus 89.7% in hospital ward in Tampere and Turku, respectively. Hospitalisation rates were 44.8% in Tampere and 36.8% in Turku (95% confidence interval for the difference 1.2-14.8%). In both regions, children with prior inhaled corticosteroid therapy needed less inpatient care. Mean duration of hospitalisation was 3.4 days in Tampere and only 1.4 days in Turku. Recurrent visits in 6 months were more common in Tampere.
There were marked regional differences in the management of preschool children with wheezing. On a population level, frequent use of corticosteroid therapy was associated with reduced hospital admissions.