Researchers in Southampton and the US have created an app that can predict a child’s risk of asthma through six simple yes or no questions – and without the need for blood tests.
Known as the Personalised Asthma Risk Score (PARS), it has the potential to help prevent the condition in some children by identifying those at moderate to high risk who could benefit from interventions.
It was developed by clinicians at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio in partnership with colleagues at Southampton General Hospital and can be used by clinicians and families.
They are asked to answer questions about eczema, wheezing, race, allergies and parental asthma history, with the tool available in chart form, online and as a smartphone or tablet app.
It then gives a score between zero and 15 which categorises a child as having a low, moderate or high risk of developing asthma by the age of seven through a percentage calculation.
The development has been unveiled in a study published online by The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology which was funded by the National Institutes of Health in the US.
PARS was found to be 11% more effective than the currently-used system, the Asthma Predictive Index (API), in identifying those who go on to develop the condition.
In addition to using parental asthma, wheezing unrelated to colds and eczema as factors, as in the API, PARS also incorporates wheezing before the age of three, single and multiple allergy history and race in its calculation.
The researchers analysed PARS against the data of 762 infants born between 2001 and 2003 in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and 1,456 born and enrolled between 1989 and 1990 from the David Hide Asthma and Allergy Research Centre on the Isle of Wight.
“The ability to accurately predict which children will develop asthma continues to be a challenge for clinicians,” said Professor Hasan Arshad, a consultant in respiratory medicine at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and co-author of the study.
“PARS has the potential to be an important innovation as it uses information routinely collected at assessment, does not require blood testing and has an improved ability to predict asthma development in children with fewer risk factors.
“This is significant as wheeze is common in early childhood and identifying children at risk of asthma development is the first step in developing interventions to prevent childhood asthma.”
Dr Ramesh Kurukulaaratchy, a consultant in respiratory medicine at UHS and part of the study team, added: “A common question that parents face is whether or not their wheezy child will go on to have asthma. This simple tool should help clinicians answer that question with much greater confidence than before.
“Importantly, what we have shown in this study is that it can be used reliably for populations in the USA as well as the UK, suggesting it has wide applicability.”
The PARS tool is available at pars.research.cchmc.org.