Every three seconds someone in the UK could be having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack, according to new research from Asthma UK.
The new analysis, based on the lived experience of more than 10,000 people with asthma, reveals that the total number of asthma attacks happening every year in the UK could be more than 10 million – much higher than other research suggests.
Asthma UK, which has launched new asthma attack advice for the 5.4 million people with the respiratory condition, suggests that many asthma attacks could be avoided if those with the condition understood the warning signs that an asthma attack was about to strike – and sought help.
The charity’s research revealed that on average, adults and children with asthma reported having two asthma attacks every year – a much higher number than existing figures suggest. Asthma UK says its findings suggest the need for more research into people’s experience of asthma attacks to ensure that health advice and services are meeting the needs of people with the condition.
Every asthma attack is potentially life-threatening, and three people die from one every day in the UK.
Asthma is a long-term condition that affects someone’s airways – the tubes that carry air in and out of their lungs – causing them to narrow and making it harder to breathe. More than 77,000 people were admitted to hospital for an asthma attack last year.
Asthma symptoms can vary over time. For example, cold air, coughs and colds and grass pollen can make symptoms worse. This makes it difficult for people with asthma to assess whether their symptoms are worsening because they’ve temporarily come into contact with a trigger, which they can manage with their reliever inhaler (usually blue), or whether their symptoms are developing into an asthma attack. An actual asthma attack can leave people gasping for breath and at worst can be fatal.
But Asthma UK says that if people need to use their reliever inhaler three or more times a week, are waking up at night because of their asthma and have symptoms such as wheezing or a cough that is worsening or interfering with their work or day-to-day activities, they should contact their GP for advice.
They should be particularly mindful of worsening symptoms if they have previously been prescribed oral steroids for an asthma attack as this means they are more at risk of having another attack in the future.
The best way for people to stay well with their asthma year-round is to take their preventer inhaler (usually brown) every day as it builds up protection in their airways over time preventing them becoming inflamed and susceptible to an asthma attack. Asthma UK offers health advice on its website with warning signs of asthma attacks and what to do if you think you are having one.
Dr Andy Whittamore, Clinical Lead at Asthma UK, says:
“It is shocking to think that every three seconds in the UK someone could be having an asthma attack, a terrifying experience than can cause distress and in some cases prove fatal. Asthma attacks do not come out of the blue and if people recognise the tell-tale signs that an attack is about to strike they can get the help that could save their life.
“We’re urging everyone with asthma to visit our health advice pages so they can understand what to do if an asthma attack is impending or strikes and get medical advice.”
Find out more at www.asthma.org.uk/asthmaattacks