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Asthma Inhalers - Why the Life-Saver in Your Pocket Is Not, and Never Will Be, a Fashion Accessory

27/04/2016 13:58

Did you know that three people will die today because of asthma attacks? Preventable asthma attacks. We all know someone who has asthma, 1 in 11 people have the condition, but because of this there is a common misconception that as an illness it is sorted; 'you just take a puff on your inhaler and you'll be fine'. But many people are not fine. In fact someone is admitted to hospital every 8 minutes in the UK because they are struggling to breathe. Simply fighting for air. Something most of us take for granted.

Why? It's not a simple answer. Asthma isn't a simple condition. Asthma has many different causes and is triggered by different things for different people at different ages. Asthma symptoms also change throughout someone's life or even week by week and day by day. Recent headlines focused on how asthma inhalers were being dished out 'like fashion accessories' but this highlights a bigger issue; asthma is both over-diagnosed and under-diagnosed because, astonishingly, there isn't a single simple test you can take to diagnose asthma. Imagine if this was the case for diabetes?! As a result asthma attacks still kill the equivalent of a classroom of children every year in the UK. A class of children just wiped out because of asthma attacks that may have been prevented with the right care.

That's why we urgently need more investment in asthma research to get to a definitive test to ensure people get the right diagnosis and an improvement in care for people with the condition. Our research shows that 7 out of 10 people with asthma do not get care that meets even the most basic clinical standards, and research from the Royal College of Physicians' National Review of Asthma Deaths highlighted that two thirds of asthma deaths could be prevented with better routine care.

This has to change, which is why we're working with healthcare professionals, people with asthma, the NHS, politicians, researchers, the pharmaceutical industry and key decision makers to call for more investment into asthma research. But this won't happen overnight - just 0.5% of €6billion research budget goes towards asthma (and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in Europe so there is a long way to go. That's why it's essential that in the meantime everyone with asthma works in partnership with their healthcare professional and attends their regular asthma review where they can discuss their diagnosis, medications and written asthma action plan. At these reviews, some people may be able to come off or reduce their medication if it's no longer needed, while others may need to increase or add to their medication to improve control of their symptoms. But we know this just isn't happening. Last year, over a million people missed out on their annual asthma review.

Every week we speak to people on the Asthma UK Helpline who are having a potentially life threatening asthma attack or experiencing symptoms that show they are at imminent risk of one. We all need to take asthma seriously and we all need to take responsibility and work together to stop people dying because of preventable asthma attacks. The last great breakthrough in asthma research was the inhaler; it's time for another one. With more support for asthma research, we can make the next breakthrough a reality. You can donate £5 to Asthma UK by texting the word ASTHMA to 70500 (terms and conditions apply). Anyone who is concerned about their or their child's asthma can call the Asthma UK Helpline on 0300 222 5800 or visit www.asthma.org.uk for more information. To sign up to Asthma UK's newsletter for life saving advice, tips and information go to www.asthma.org.uk/signup/

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