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Asthma is one of the main causes of morbidity worldwide. It affects some 300 million individuals and has risen over the past 20 years, especially in the paediatric population. Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the airways, subject to periodic exacerbations, characterised by coughing and progressive dyspnoea. Clinical conditions may vary greatly, ranging from moderate exacerbation with an increase in nocturnal awakening and a less than 20% reduction in the flow peak, through to severe respiratory insufficiency that requires immediate intubation of the airways. Pharmacological treatment envisages a step approach that aims to obtain and maintain control over the symptoms, taking into consideration the effectiveness of the treatment available, potential side effects and cost. β2-agonists and corticosteroids are the drugs of election for both maintenance therapy and for treating exacerbations. Other therapeutic devices may prove useful in particular cases. One fundamental key point in treatment over time is the cooperation between patient and attending doctor. The latest review of the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) guidelines was published in 2006.
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