Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research

Sophie Hay

Project: Identification of Future Risk of an Attack in Paediatric Asthma

PhD overview

PhD Title: Identification of Future Risk of an Attack in Paediatric Asthma

Funded by: Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research and Imperial College London

Supervisors: Professor Sejal Saglani, Professor Andy Bush, Dr Louise Fleming

Based at: Royal Brompton Hospital​​, ​Imperial College London


Headshot of Sophie Hay
Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research PhD student, Sophie Hay

Asthma attacks are associated with extensive morbidity and mortality in children. Currently 1.1 million children are receiving asthma treatment, and, within children and young people, asthma is the most common long-term condition, in the UK. It is also responsible for 60,000 hospital admissions every year (1). Although deaths and emergency admissions that occur due to asthma are largely preventable with the correct management and early intervention, the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) have highlighted the need to measure future risk of an attack. This is to identify children who may be at high risk even with good management in place (2). 

The best (current) predictor of a future asthma attack occurring, is an attack in the previous 12 months (3). There are no other validated objective tests of risk which can be used to inform treatment plans to prevent future attacks. Studies carried out in adult populations with asthma have found that the use of biomarkers are pivotal in predicting the risk of an asthma attack risk. I intend to perform a series of tests to try whether it is possible to predict if a child with asthma will have an attack in the near future. Lung function tests including, spirometry, forced oscillation technique and lung clearance index will be tested, along with, inflammatory biomarkers; blood eosinophils and neutrophils. I aim to see if these components have a better prediction ability in singularity or in conjunction. I will be testing school aged children, aged 6-16. Participants will have 5 study visits over the course of a year. I hope to recruit around 150 participants.

About me

I grew up on the west coast of Scotland and always found myself interested in human physiology. I went on to study Physiology at the University of Aberdeen and graduated with a BSc 2:1 (Hons) degree in 2020. After two years gaining work experience in both clinical and educational environments, I decided to continue my studies at King's College London. I graduated from King’s College London with my master's degree in Human and Applied Physiology (Merit). All of my research work so far highlights my interest in the physiological and diagnostic capabilities of medical tests. I look forward to applying the skills I have learnt to my current research project.

Having previously worked within an educational setting, I thoroughly enjoy research that focuses on paediatric healthcare.  I hope to pursue a career in clinical research, by completing my registration as a clinical physiologist through the Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists (RCCP).  I am very excited about what the next few years has in store."


Thank you to my supervisors for their help so far and a special thank you to Sam Irving for her day-to-day support.



  1. Blakey JD, Woolnough K, Fellows J, Walker S, Thomas M, Pavord ID. Assessing the risk of attack in the management of asthma: a review and proposal for revision of the current control-centred paradigm. Prim Care Respir J. 2013 Sep;22(3):344–52.  
  2. Price D, Bjermer L, Bergin DA, Martinez R. Asthma referrals: a key component of asthma management that needs to be addressed. J Asthma Allergy. 2017 Jul 25; 10:209–23. 
  3. Turner S. Predicting and reducing risk of exacerbations in children with asthma in the primary care setting: current perspectives. Pragmat Obs Res. 2016 Aug 19; 7:33–9.