400 Aussies die from asthma each year and unfortunately, these deaths are preventable. Australia has the highest incidence of asthma in the world (over 20% of the population).
Asthma is reversible and those affected can manage their asthma so there is minimal disability – even Olympic athletes have asthma. Recent bushfires, thunderstorm asthma, and increasing pollution and pollen has contributed to a rise in asthma diagnoses.
To manage asthma well, the following guidelines are recommended:
- Correct diagnosis – asthma may not have a wheeze, may manifest as lethargy or cough, and may come and go. Proper diagnosis by lung function tests is helpful, and if in doubt, referral for a histamine challenge and seeing a respiratory physician
- Asthma action plan – a clear plan with documented medication and inhalers to use in increasing intensity during times of attack. Update this plan annually or if asthma worsens, and share with schools and workplaces just in case
- Effective inhaler use by running through with a GP or pharmacist, can improve the effective dose by 70%
- Measuring your breathing regularly – a peak flow meter at home or spirometry at a medical centre, and recording readings is helpful to tailor medication needs
- Exercise regularly when you are well, including swimming that helps with maximising lung capacity
- Stop smoking, and get vaccinated for influenza (for everyone) and pneumococcal (for those over 65 years)
- If appropriate, avoid stress, manage anxiety and reduce weight
Look after your breathing and get an asthma check if you have any shortness of breath, ongoing cough, tiredness, allergies, past history or family history of asthma.