When Melbourne experienced what’s called a thunderstorm asthma event thousands of people turned up in emergency departments, there were hundreds of intensive care admissions and several deaths.
One reason for the impact was that too many people with asthma don’t recognise that their condition is worse than it is and are relying too heavily on their blue puffer.
Throughout Australia there is a cohort of people who live with unacceptable asthma symptoms such as wheeze, breathlessness, chest tightness and incapacity to consistently perform your tasks of daily life without breathlessness.
The most worrying symptoms are those during the small hours of the night or on waking because they are markers of poor asthma control. Frequent use of Ventolin or the blue puffer is a very significant marker of poor asthma control.
Ventolin or salbutamol, is what’s called a reliever, it doesn’t treat the asthma, it just opens up the airways and therefore is a temporary solution but unfortunately relied on by too many people in our community believing it’s treating their asthma, when it‘s not.
Around 25% of all people in Australia with asthma, have uncontrolled asthma symptoms and are not taking a regular asthma preventer.
Some people living with asthma would describe an asthma attack as when their Ventolin doesn’t work or relieve their symptoms as quickly as they would expect it to. People living with asthma who have regular symptoms and are on no regular preventer treatment should be taking an inhaler that includes a steroid component.
Just the administration of a relatively tiny dose of inhaled steroid regularly virtually eliminates the risk of asthma deaths, asthma crises and trips to hospital. Where people don’t improve then sometimes a long acting form of Ventolin or something similar needs to be added to the steroid.
So if this pattern of poorly treated symptoms fits you, please talk to your doctor about them.