Every 10 seconds, someone experiences a potentially fatal asthma attack. Making sure your asthma is well managed is the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of an attack, according to Dr Walker. She says, “People with asthma have what we call ‘twitchy airways’ that overact to triggers such as pollution, pollen and temperature changes. Inhaled or oral steroid treatments dampen and control this reaction. This is why it’s crucial that people take their inhaler as prescribed.” Research shows a written ‘asthma action plan’ will make you four times less likely to need hospital treatment.
Inhaled or oral ‘preventer’ steroids are still the standard preventative asthma treatment. These are usually combined with a ‘reliever’ inhaler, which keeps the airways open. Asthmatics should check with their GP if they are using their inhaler correctly, as it’s common to not be getting an adequate dose. A ‘spacer’ — a plastic device that can be attached to an inhaler — is often given to children under five because it ensures more medicine gets into the lungs.
Busting common asthma myths
Myth: Only kids get it.
Truth: While for many asthma does start in childhood, some people are diagnosed in their 40s with so called ‘adult onset asthma’. Some women experience symptoms for the first time when going through menopause, so experts think there might be a hormonal link.
Myth: It’s not that serious.
Truth: Over a third of people with asthma are at high risk of a fatal attack, with 5% of sufferers having symptoms so severe they have difficulty breathing almost all of the time
Myth: Don’t exercise if you have asthma.
Truth: Regular exercise can improve lung function and help you stay slim, which can mean fewer attacks. But if cold air, pollution or pollen trigger your asthma, it’s sensible to avoid exercising outside when these factors are present. And always talk to your GP before starting a new fitness programme.
Myth: Asthmatics always wheeze.
Truth: Many sufferers don’t wheeze at all. That nagging dry night cough, or a chest cold that won’t go away, can also be warning signs of the condition — as can coughing in response to cold air.
Myth: You only need an inhaler when you’re having an attack.
Truth: Effectively managing asthma isn’t just about taking ‘relievers’ when flare-ups or attacks occur. Patients often need to take ‘preventers’ on a daily basis to combat chronic inflammation and avoid future attacks.