Be Prepared For Asthma

The first week in September each year is traditionally designated as National Asthma Awareness Week - to draw our attention to a condition which directly affects more than two million Australians. This year one of the key messages to come from National Asthma Awareness Week is “be prepared”.

Australia has more people with asthma than just about anywhere else in the world. One in six children and one is 10 adults live each day with this life-threatening disease. Everyone knows someone – a friend or family member – with asthma.

Asthma is a potentially very serious condition likely to cause at least discomfort, quite possibly severe disability and perhaps even death. So, learning “asthma first aid” is a simple skill that could save someone’s life

In Australia, the number of deaths from asthma each year declined from about 1000 some 20 years ago to less than 300 in 2005, but in the past few years it has been increasing again to more than 400.

During the winter, colds and flu are major causes of cough and congestion, but these are not the only conditions which affect our ability to breathe freely.

A variety of factors can trigger the inflammation which causes the symptoms of asthma – wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing, particularly at night or in the early morning. These trigger factors include allergies, viral infections and inhaled pollutants such as tobacco smoke, dust and dust mites. Cold air exposure and exercise can trigger asthma, as can reflux disease and certain medicines in people with super-sensitive airways. Even laughing (said to be the best medicine!!), especially in children, has been shown to trigger asthma.

Identification and avoidance of trigger factors go a long way towards asthma control. But most people with asthma will need preventer and reliever medicines as well.

What medicine is best and how often it should be used depends on whether the asthma is classified as intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent or severe persistent.

We don’t yet have all the answers as to the exact underlying cause of asthma – that is, why some people have airways more naturally sensitive – nor do we have the perfect single treatment.

Most people who live with asthma think they are in control of their condition, but the reality is very different.

Managed appropriately, asthma should not be a major concern; but for most people with asthma, proper management is considered too onerous – or just not considered at all.

As well, many people with asthma are unaware of asthma first aid. These procedures are essential to know, not only for everyone with asthma but also if you have someone with asthma in your family or you’re caring for someone with asthma. And it’s especially important for teachers to know about asthma first aid. The State Asthma Foundations have available Asthma Emergency Kits which include basic equipment and instructions for use to assist someone having an asthma attack; and the Foundations can provide education and training on the use of the kits. Check out the website www.asthmaaustralia.org.au for more details.

Come in and have a chat with one of our friendly pharmacists.

By being prepared with good asthma management strategies we should all breathe a little more easily.