Asthma hospital presentations drop, Asthma WA warns ‘Be ready for winter’

Recent figures have shown a drop in presentations of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to Western Australian hospitals last year, but on World Asthma Day (Wednesday May 5) Asthma WA is heeding caution.

Australia has the highest prevalence of asthma for adults aged 18-45 worldwide so with winter upon us, Asthma WA is warning people with the respiratory condition to be prepared for the season ahead and not be fooled that asthma symptoms are on the decline.

Asthma WA CEO, Donna Rendell, said that from July 2019 to June 2020, there was an eight per cent decrease in asthma emergency department presentations and a 12 per cent decrease in COPD ED presentations.

“While we can’t be 100 per cent sure why this is, it suggests that good hand hygiene, social distancing and getting your flu shot were important factors in reducing avoidable ED presentations,” Ms Rendell said.

Consultant in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Dr John Blakey said “There appear to be two main contributors to the significant reduction in admissions we have seen.

Firstly, a substantial proportion of asthma attacks are caused by viral infections. The increased awareness of physical distancing and hand hygiene due to COVID, coupled with the reduced travel to other areas, have helped greatly reduce the number of respiratory viral infections and “Influenza-Like Illnesses”.

Did you see our story in The West Australian on the 5th May 2021?

Hear from Meaghan about her experience of asthma and how her life has changed since she learned how to manage her the article here

Secondly, most people with asthma do not take their preventative treatment regularly as intended. Concern about COVID-19 has encouraged more people to take their prescribed doses and has thus reduced their risk of having an asthma attack,” Dr Blakey said.  

Ms Rendell said the decrease in people presenting at hospital may have also been due to fear of contracting COVID-19 or other viruses.

“But asthma is still a respiratory disease that needs to be taken seriously. If someone is having difficulty breathing, it’s critical that they commence asthma first aid and do not delay calling 000,” she said.

“As we head into winter, it’s essential respiratory conditions are well managed. People need to have an up-to-date asthma and/or COPD action plan and ensure they are taking their medication as prescribed.”

She said it was important for people with asthma or COPD to get both the flu vaccination and COVID-19 vaccination when it’s available.

Asthma WA is available on 9289 3600 to answer questions about asthma and COPD or patients should speak with their doctor for a review and to update their action plan.

Ms Rendell said both the prevalence of asthma and its impact are higher than many people realise.

“One in nine Australians have asthma, so we all know someone who is affected by the condition, and its impact is far reaching. It doesn’t always end up in emergency situations, but it can and often does, have a significant effect on their quality of life including mental health, absenteeism and stressful hospital visits – usually due to inadequate management.

“And that’s where the free services Asthma WA offers can make a difference, by continuing to help reduce the number of hospitalisations and improve quality of life through education and empowerment of people to take control of their respiratory health.” 

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