Spring is asthma season – are you and your family breathing easy?

Nearly three million Australians (one in nine people) live with asthma.

Breathing difficulty and lung damage are scarily common problems, often caused by gas cooktops, wood heaters, mould and pests inside your home, or by air pollution or irritants like pollen outside. And a major asthma or allergy attack can be fatal. Asthma can also increase your risk of developing chronic lung or heart disease and even cancer!

With all that in mind, are you and your family breathing easy?

Any form of breathing difficulty should be assessed by your doctor, whether it is seasonal or brought on by asthma, allergies, exercise, cold weather or any other factors. If the cause is asthma, your doctor will also provide you with an Asthma Action Plan. This is critical for management of the condition and, for kids, it will be needed by daycare centres, schools etc.

It is important not to under-estimate the risks of breathing difficulties and asthma, both in terms of what they can do to you and the fact they can make you more vulnerable to serious viral infections or chronic diseases. If you or any of your family members suffer from asthma, Asthma Australia and Ochre Health recommend the following checklist to reduce the risk and optimise asthma control:

  • Ensure you are taking your preventer medication as prescribed.
  • Ensure your technique for using your preventer or reliever device is correct and has been checked by your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. For children, this will involve a “spacer” and, in the case of young children, require help from an adult.
  • Ask your doctor for a written Asthma Action Plan if you don’t have one, including instructions for when and how you should adjust your treatment if your symptoms worsen and also when you should seek medical assistance.
  • Follow your Asthma Action Plan and have your doctor review and update it periodically.
  • Get all of the vaccinations recommended for people with asthma, including flu, pneumococcal and COVID-19 shots.
  • If your children suffer from asthma, make sure their Asthma Action Plan has been provided to their daycare centre or school along with any required preventer or reliever device including a spacer.
  • Maintain good overall health and wellbeing, including following advice for managing any other long term conditions and focusing on key general health areas like nutrition, exercise and stress management.
  • Ensure you always have access to a reliever puffer and spares, for example when you leave the house or when you are at work or school.
  • Ensure you know how to identify asthma symptoms  and treat them properly, including having a basic understanding of asthma first aid.
  • Ensure you understand your asthma triggers and how you can manage them. These may include things like allergies, pollen, cold weather, smoke or pets. Thunderstorms can also be serious triggers is some parts of the country, with the storms bursting pollen into very small particles that can cause particularly severe asthma attacks.
  • If you do have allergies like hayfever, make sure you are on the right medication for them.
  • Tell your family and friends you have asthma and make sure they also know your triggers as well as how to provide asthma first aid.

Talk to your doctor or call Asthma Australia on  1800 ASTHMA (278 462) if you have any questions about the above checklist or to discuss any breathing difficulties, asthma or allergies affecting you or any of your family members.

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