MORE than 2.5 million asthma sufferers in England are at risk of deadly asthma attacks as symptoms “deteriorate” amid a coronavirus winter.
Symptoms for those who suffer with the respiratory illness could be exacerbated by the lack of access to basic care, a charity has warned.
Asthma UK stated that many people have missed their annual asthma reviews, which is a chance to make sure inhalers are working effectively.
Winter brings challenges for those who have respiratory conditions and the cold weather, as well as the prevalence of the common cold and chest infections put sufferers at a heightened risk level.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also meant that many people have avoided seeking help and further care for their condition.
Research conducted by the charity found that 58 per cent of sufferers said their asthma self-management was deteriorating and they are using their reliever inhaler three or more times a week.
The charity said that usage on this scale is a red flag that a sufferer’s symptoms are getting worse and that they are at an increased risk of having an attack.
Asthma UK has called on patients in this situation to book an appointment with their GP.
Winter is a tough time of the year for asthma sufferers and one parent has urged others to speak up and not be afraid of booking an appointment if their symptoms are deteriorating.
Sarah Green from Birmingham lost her daughter Holly in 2016 after the 28-year-old died from an asthma attack. Holly had been using her reliever inhaler every day before she died and Sarah now says you should do “everything you can” to look after yourself this winter.
Sarah said: “When I look back on the months leading up to Holly’s death, all the signs were there that she was really struggling with her asthma.
“I’d become used to seeing her puff on her blue inhaler every day and she was going through them really quickly. She had an asthma attack suddenly one evening and she was gone forever.
“Holly was a busy mum of two young boys and was more focused on looking after them than taking care of her own health.“I’d say to anyone with asthma, please do everything you can to look after yourself this winter. I didn’t realise how serious asthma could be until it took Holly away from me and left her twin boys without their mother.”
Emma Rubach, head of health advice at Asthma UK added that if you’re using your reliever inhaler three or more times a week, it is a strong sign that you are at increased risk of an asthma attack and you need to book an urgent appointment with your GP or asthma nurse.
She said: “All GP surgeries should be able to do this remotely.
“The earlier you get help, the easier it will be to treat you. Ensuring your condition is well-managed could prevent you from ending up in hospital or, in the worst case, save your life.”
Top tips for a remote annual asthma review
If you need to have an asthma review and you don’t want to, or cannot make it into a surgery – most GPS have the capacity to see you virtually.
Asthma UK details its top tips for your review:
- Make a plan: make sure you know how and when your health care professional (HCP) will contact you and find somewhere quiet to take the call
- Check your connection: whether telephone signal (for phone calls) or 3G/4G/Wi-Fi (for video call)
- Be prepared: have a list of things that you want to say and have anything you might need with you eg inhalers, peak flow meter, asthma action plan
- Give it a try: For most people, most of the time, telephone and video calls are a good way of communicating with your HCP. But if it doesn’t work, let your HCP know and ask to revert to a different way of communicating.
Asthma UK said it is concerned with the fact that many people are reluctant to access asthma care due to the coronavirus.
Since the start of July the charity found that 25 per cent of sufferers have delayed or avoided care through fear of putting extra pressure on the NHS.
It also stated that more than a fifth have had their regular care cancelled.
This week experts urged people to continue using the NHS through the second lockdown and this includes patients who are due their annual review.
These were suspended between April and June to free up capacity, and around 650,000 people missed out on their reviews.
Sarah MacFadyen, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Asthma UK, added: “It’s completely unacceptable that some people with asthma are still unable to access their basic care, putting them at increased risk of potentially fatal attacks.
“GP practices are working in incredibly difficult circumstances and must be better supported to address urgently the backlog of annual asthma reviews, which will avoid an influx of asthma patients needing emergency treatment in hospitals later down the line.
“Acting now will save lives and take pressure off the health service as it faces the most challenging winter in its history.”