Asthma still kills: how might this be prevented?

20 Jun

by Christian Thomas, PhD student in Medication Safety theme Image Last month the National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD) released figures regarding 195 people who died as a result of asthma in the UK. The report, which reviewed asthma deaths from February 2012 – January 2013 found that death could have been avoided in nearly half of patients. The importance of people with asthma being informed about their illness in order to avoid preventable death was emphasized. Significant improvements to the way asthma is treated have been made over the last 50 years. On the one hand, it is important that health professionals are up to date with evidence based medicine. Equally important, is that patients and parents or carers of those who suffer with asthma, do everything possible to avoid preventable deaths such as making sure medicines are taken correctly and being prepared for factors in the environment which may affect asthma symptoms. As part of the NRAD, asthma patients were urged to be aware of their triggers e.g. such as hay fever; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs e.g. ibuprofen; smoking; minimising time spent around other people smoking; attend or book an asthma review with GP/nurse at least once a year and to make sure to have been given a personal asthma action plan as these have been shown to improve asthma care. Crucially, people with asthma must ensure preventative inhaled corticosteroids are taken as directed by their prescriber. Parents and/or carers of children with asthma are encouraged to explain ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘when’ the child should be using their inhalers as well as how to spot when their asthma is not controlled. Children must be aware of not only when to call for emergency services but how to do so. Asthma hospitalizes 65,316 people a year in the UK and is known to affect people of any age. Although commonly associated with children or with those in old age, the NRAD reported the median age at the time of initial diagnosis of asthma was 37 years old in those who died. 69 percent of patients in the review were diagnosed after the age of 15 years. Asthma should not be dismissed as a cause of respiratory symptoms. If you or someone you know is suffering from wheeziness, breathlessness, chest tightness or a cough (especially during the night) ensure to visit the GP or nurse. Once diagnosed, a pharmacist can also assist with ensuring an inhaler is taken correctly. A recent review of 906 people with asthma who received advice regarding their inhaler technique from their pharmacist in Greater Manchester, found over half of survey respondents felt that their quality of life had improved for using the service. References GRAY, N., LONG, N. C., MENSAH, N. 2014. Report of the Evaluation of the Greater Manchester Community Pharmacy Inhaler Technique Service. LEVY et al., 2014. Why asthma still kills – The National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD) Confidential Enquiry report. London: Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership.

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