Asthma WA has been commissioned by the WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) to provide a new telephone helpline for people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who have increased concerns about their health and the effects of the COVID-19 virus.
Alongside the clinical care provided by General Practitioners and primary health carers, the helpline will assist in providing ongoing up-to-date support to people living with a respiratory condition in WA.
1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) will be staffed Monday to Friday by a team of experienced Respiratory Health Nurses and Educators.
Chief Executive Officer for Asthma WA, Donna Rendell, said that around a month ago her organisation was inundated with calls from people with asthma and COPD, anxious about the increased risk presented by COVID-19.
She said the demand on the service was expected to increase leading into the Winter flu season. “Many people with asthma underestimate their condition and are unclear how to manage their symptoms optimally. We often find this in people with COPD as well”.
“While we’re hopeful that the risk of COVID-19 is gradually coming under control, people with respiratory conditions are likely to be harder hit by either COVID-19 or the flu than others in the community,” Ms Rendell said. “It is our aim to help people be as healthy as possible before Winter sets in”.
Asthma symptoms such as a cough can be mistaken for those caused by viral infections including COVID-19, so it’s important to keep asthma and COPD under control. “Our Respiratory Health Nurses and Educators are able to coach callers on how to achieve this, and are able to provide advice on how to manage their respiratory condition if they were to contract a virus” she said.
Other information provided includes advice about flu vaccinations, how to prepare for COVID-19, how to keep airways clear, and specific advice for people living with COPD.
Asthma WA can also work in partnership with GP’s and medical practices to support their patients with asthma and COPD, through welfare checks by phone, individualised respiratory education and ongoing support, all in conjunction with the individual GP.
Ms Rendell said “World Asthma Day on May 5th, is the perfect time to remind people to be proactive about their respiratory condition. Now is the time to update their Asthma Action Plan, review their medications and speak to their doctor about a flu vaccination. All of these steps will help them to get ahead of any illnesses that may come their way.”
Over 273,000 West Australians have asthma and 46,000 have COPD. In asthma, that leads to over 6,000 emergency department presentations and 3,500 hospitalisations per year and in COPD over 5,000 emergency department presentations and 11,500 hospitalisations.
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