Emergency focus for World Asthma Day


boy using inhaler and spacer

The National Asthma Council Australia is urging pharmacists to help educate patients with asthma today (2 May)

The Council is asking pharmacists to check whether their patients know asthma first aid to ensure they are ready for any future asthma emergencies, particularly in the light of last year’s thunderstorm asthma episode.

Education to assist communities in preparing for and responding to asthma epidemics is a key recommendation of the final report into the Victorian thunderstorm asthma event, which occurred on 21 and 22 November 2016.

The report was handed down last week by the state’s Inspector-General for Emergency Management.

Pharmacies played a significant role during the Victorian thunderstorm asthma event.

National Asthma Council Australia Director and pharmacist, Stephen Hughes, says that pharmacists can help their patients be better prepared for managing asthma emergencies.

“It’s important that people know how to recognise an asthma attack and how to respond,” he says.

“Next time you are dispensing an asthma reliever take the opportunity to check whether the person knows how to recognise a serious asthma flare-up and knows what to do.”

“A good idea is for families with asthma to have an asthma first aid poster displayed in their house with easy to follow steps – a copy is on the National Asthma Council Australia’s website.

“Any serious asthma attack can be life-threatening and have tragic consequences. If more people in the community know what asthma first aid steps to take, lives can be saved.”

Pharmacy staff can help educate the community to recognise that an asthma flare-up or attack can come on gradually with worsening symptoms over a few days, or strike quite suddenly, he says.

Asthma first aid is needed when a person:

  • has increasing asthma symptoms of wheezing, cough, chest tightness or shortness of breath;
  • has symptoms that get worse very quickly or aren’t improving;
  • has severe shortness of breath or obvious difficulty breathing;
  • can’t speak comfortably in full sentences; and/or
  • gets little or no relief from their reliever inhaler.

The Council recommends that pharmacists refer their patients to the National Asthma Council Australia’s first aid poster, which includes how to use Bricanyl or Symbicort inhalers for first aid, that can be downloaded or printed from www.nationalasthma.org.au/asthma-first-aid.

For clinical guidelines for managing acute asthma see www.asthmahandbook.org.au/acute-asthma/clinical.

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