The importance of good asthma management


Asthma is a condition that affects the airways and causes symptoms that can include coughing, wheezing and/or tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. It can be dangerous, hospitalizing between 70,000 and 80,000 people and causing 1,100 deaths every year — so knowing how to manage asthma effectively with the best forms of treatment is crucial. Yet care for patients varies from location to location. Dr Samantha Walker, Executive Director, Research & Policy at Asthma UK says, “it’s important for people to regularly assess their risk of an attack, recognize when their symptoms are getting worse, take these warning signs seriously and treat them quickly,” she says. “For example, if you find that you are using your blue inhaler a lot more often than you normally do, that should set alarm bells ringing.” In Dr Walker’s view, increased understanding of the risks associated with asthma and working hard to prevent asthma attacks could significantly reduce the number of people dying from asthma every year.


Effective management


Since the national quality guidelines for asthma management have recently been reviewed, it is important that people evaluate the care they are receiving for their condition. With that in mind — and to make people aware of national quality guidelines that promote good management of the condition — Asthma UK is launching a campaign called Compare Your Care, to coincide with World Asthma Day, today. “There’s no doubt that the majority of people benefit from currently available asthma treatment,” says Dr Walker. “That’s not an issue. What we need to do, however, is make sure that everyone in the UK receives the same high standard of asthma care from their doctor or nurse to ensure that those who are at risk of an attack are recognised and managed optimally.”

For instance, Dr Walker makes clear that effective management of asthma should include a written action plan from your GP. “There’s evidence that a written plan can help prevent attacks because it makes clear what you should do in an emergency,” she says. “People with the condition should also have their inhaler techniques checked regularly to make sure they are using them effectively; and they should have an annual review with a healthcare professional in order to, for instance, understand their ‘triggers’ and how best to avoid them.” Allergy and asthma are interlinked. Some conditions, such as hay fever, can make asthma worse — so, in these cases, the need for effective asthma control is even more acute. “And,” says Dr Walker, “if you have a food allergy as well as asthma, ensuring that your asthma is under control is vital to reduce the risk of having a severe asthma attack as part of an allergic reaction to food.”