Recurrent lower respiratory illnesses among young children in rural Kyrgyzstan: overuse of antibiotics and possible under-diagnosis of asthma. A qualitative FRESH AIR study.
Lower respiratory tract illnesses (LRT-illnesses) in children under 5 years (U5s) are a leading cause of morbidity, hospitalisations and mortality worldwide, particularly in low-income countries. It is pertinent to understand possible inconsistent management. This study explored perceptions and practices among caregivers and health professionals on recurrent LRT-illnesses in U5s. Semi-structured interviews with 13 caregivers to U5s with recurrent LRT-illnesses and with 22 primary care health professional interviews in two rural provinces in Kyrgyzstan were triangulated. Data were thematically analysed. The majority (8/13) of caregivers described their young children as having recurrent coughing, noisy breathing and respiratory distress of whom several had responded positively to acute salbutamol and/or had been repeatedly hospitalised for LRT-illness. Family stress and financial burdens were significant. The health professionals classified young children with recurrent LRT-illnesses primarily with pneumonia and/or a multitude of bronchitis diagnoses. Broad-spectrum antibiotics and supportive medicine were used repeatedly, prescribed by health professionals or purchased un-prescribed by the caregivers at the pharmacy. The health professionals had never applied the asthma diagnosis to U5s nor had they prescribed inhaled steroids, and none of the interviewed caregivers' U5s were diagnosed with asthma. Health professionals and caregivers shared a common concern for the children's recurrent respiratory illnesses developing into a severe chronic pulmonary condition, including asthma. In conclusion, the study identified an inconsistent management of LRT-illnesses in U5s, with exorbitant use of antibiotics and an apparently systemic under-diagnosis of asthma/wheeze. When the diagnosis asthma is not used, the illness is not considered as a long-term condition, requiring preventer/controller medication.
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