More than three quarters of asthma sufferers are unaware that they may be at risk of a fatal attack, despite thinking their condition is under control, according to new survey results.
The survey findings reveal that 15% of mild or moderate asthma sufferers have attended A&E over the past 12 months due to their asthma, but still don't class their condition as uncontrolled.
The survey, conducted by Allergy UK and funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited, also revealed that 78% of asthma sufferers who think their asthma is mild or moderate use up to four 'reliever' asthma inhalers a month, when in reality they shouldn't even need to use one per month if their disease is well controlled.1
According to Government data, approximately 4 million people in the UK were being treated with asthma medication in 2012-2013. Based on survey findings of 464 participants, Allergy UK estimates that up to 2.7 million of those who consider their asthma to be mild or moderate, are at risk of life-threatening asthma attacks.2-5*
Nearly half (49%) of this group still suffer from breathlessness and 45% from wheezing, despite taking regular medication. According to national charity Allergy UK, these people need to be urgently reviewed.
In addition, nearly half of those who class their asthma as 'mild or moderate' have been prescribed oral steroids in the past 12 months. Using this level of medication means the condition isn't under control, as it should only be necessary in an emergency, or in the most severe asthma cases.1
"Asthma is a killer, with three people dying of it every day in the UK.6 These shocking survey results reflect what we hear time and time again from the people that call our helpline," said Lindsey McManus, Deputy CEO of Allergy UK. "People 'put up with' their asthma symptoms and continue to use medication that isn't treating the inflammation, rather than seeking help to get their asthma under control. They just don't realise they are putting themselves in danger and could soon find themselves in A&E."
Nearly one in five (16%) of those who wrongly think their asthma is under control have taken six or more days off work or school in the past 12 months because of their asthma.
Dr Monica Nordstrom, Respiratory Physician at Ashford and St. Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust agrees: "Doctors, nurses and patients themselves often fail to recognise whether asthma is moderate or severe, leading to life-threatening attacks that could have been avoided with appropriate diagnosis and management. It's important for doctors and nurses to be informed about patient-specific allergic triggers for asthma and to make the link between a patient's asthma and allergy. This can help to avoid long delays in getting appropriate treatment."
At least 60% of asthma is triggered by allergens7 including house dust mite, pollen, animal dander, mould and foods. Yet only 37% of the asthma sufferers surveyed had been allergy tested. If more of these people were allergy tested, we could see the rate of asthma attacks falling, according to Allergy UK.
'Mild intermittent' asthma is classed as having symptoms less than once a week, without sleep being affected. Sufferers are able to carry out normal everyday activities with normal lung function. Anything more than that is classed as uncontrolled asthma.8
Dr Nordstrom continues: "There are three warning signs for patients to look out for; if you use more than one reliever inhaler a month; if you've been prescribed one or more courses of oral corticosteroids in the past 12 months or if you are consistently missing work or school because of your asthma - these can all be signs that your asthma may be more severe than you think and you should seek more help from your doctor or specialist nurse."
Over one in five asthma sufferers (22%) surveyed had not had an asthma review for over a year. Lindsey McManus, Allergy UK said: "Our biggest piece of advice is to talk to your doctor or asthma nurse. They will conduct a thorough asthma review and may refer you to a specialist who may conduct an allergy assessment and review your asthma management. This is the only way to ensure that the asthma crisis doesn't worsen."
Are you at risk?
Visit www.allergyuk.org to download a leaflet on asthma triggered by allergens. The leaflet includes a questionnaire, which you can complete and give to your doctor or nurse to help them identify whether you have uncontrolled asthma triggered by allergens. They can refer you to a specialist for an allergy assessment and appropriate management.