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Allergy UK have found that around 75 per cent of 464 people who believe their asthma is only mild or moderate in severity have used up to four reliever inhalers each month, and have urged asthma sufferers to take control of their condition instead of merely seeking relief from the symptoms of their condition during a flare-up.
The charity reminds people that asthma sufferers shouldn’t need their inhaler more than once a month if their condition is under control. If someone with asthma is using an inhaler in order to relieve symptoms more than once a month, they may be at risk of a fatal asthma attack.
At least 200 people are hospitalised because of their asthma condition every day – a total of 73,000 a year with more than 1,000 of those suffering fatal attacks.
Around four million Brits use asthma medication on a weekly or monthly basis in order to keep their condition under control, but Allergy UK has predicted that 2.7 million of those who consider their asthma to be mild or moderate may actually be at risk of a life-threatening attack as they still suffer from breathlessness or wheezing despite regular medication.
The same group of people who class their asthma as mild or moderate contains 50% who are also taking oral steroids, or have been prescribed them within the last 12 months. Using this level of medication means the condition isn’t necessarily under control, as they should only become necessary in an emergency or in the more severe cases of asthma.
Lindsey McManus, the deputy CEO of Allergy UK said, “Asthma is a killer, with three people dying of it every day in the UK. These shocking results reflect what we hear time and time again from the people that call our helpline. People ‘put up with’ asthma symptoms and continue to use medication which isn’t treating the inflammation rather than seeking help to get their asthma under control. They don’t realise the danger they are putting themselves in and could soon find themselves in A&E.”
Dr Monica Nordstrom, Respiratory Physician at Ashford and St.Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation trust said, “Doctors, nurses and patients themselves often fail to recognise whether asthma is moderate or severe, leading to life-threatening attacks that could have been avoided with appropriate diagnosis and management.”
She added, “There are three warning signs for patients to look out for; if you use more than one reliever inhaler a months; if you’ve been prescribed one or more courses of oral corticosteroids in the past 12 months or if you are consistently missing work or school because of your asthma – these can all be signs that your asthma may be more severe than you think and you should seek help from your doctor or specialist nurse.”
More than one in five asthma patients have not had an asthma review in over a year, something which could increase the risk of a fatal asthma attack at a time when people are going abroad for their summer holiday. The best idea is to have a check-up for your condition before you leave, preventing any unfortunate surprises after you arrive in your destination. Although it isn’t recommended that you rely on your reliever inhaler, it’s a great idea to pack it in with your hand luggage before you depart the UK along with any other inhalers, medication and your asthma travel insurance documents and EHIC card, so you are fully prepared should anything unforeseen and related to your condition occur whilst you are away.