Five top asthma questions

National Asthma Handbook launch: woman uses inhaler

To mark World Asthma Day on Tuesday, the National Asthma Council Australia asked patients what they most wanted to know about asthma and allergy

National Asthma Council Director and general practitioner, Professor Amanda Barnard says that with asthma affecting 10% of Australians and allergies affecting one in five, it is natural that patients have questions about how they can better manage their asthma and allergies.

“Given asthma’s high prevalence in the community and the range of questions we received in the lead up to World Asthma Day, it’s imperative that we help Australians be better informed about their condition while making sure they take a proactive approach to reviewing their asthma management and care,” she said.

She said that the Council is reminding patients to discuss their asthma with health professionals, review their written asthma action plan, update their My Health Record if they have one and get their annual flu vaccination.

The top five questions are…

Spacers: do adults and children need them? I’ve heard conflicting advice.

The Council’s advice to patients is that “everyone who uses a metered dose inhaler or puffer for their medications should use a spacer. Breathing the medicine in through a spacer allows more of the medicine to reach the small airways of the lungs and helps prevent side effects”.

Patients are directed to the Spacer Use and Care Factsheet, while health professionals can view the how-to-video Handbook reference.

I’ve got asthma and I’m pregnant; should I avoid or stop taking my asthma medication?

The advice is, “No, don’t stop taking them as many women find their asthma changes during pregnancy. Medications for asthma have been shown to be very safe for both mother and baby and stopping them can put you and your baby at risk. Discuss your medications and how to take them before and during pregnancy with your doctor”.

Patients are directed to the Pregnancy and Asthma Factsheet, while health professionals can view the Handbook reference.

I take medications for allergic rhinitis related to my asthma. Should I try complementary therapies?

The advice is, “When considering complementary therapies, look at whether studies have been done which provide evidence that the therapy is proven to work for asthma. If there is insufficient evidence, the complementary therapy is not recommended”.

Patients are directed to the Complementary Therapy Brochure, while health professionals can view the Handbook Table 78.

Is there a link between asthma and reflux?

The advice is, “Gastric reflux can mimic asthma or for those with asthma, reflux can make the symptoms worse. Discuss reflux management with your doctor”.

Patients are directed to Asthma and Healthy Living, while health professionals can view the Handbook reference.

I’m over 65. How can I tell if it’s really asthma or if it’s emphysema?

The advice is, “Some people develop asthma for the first time in later adulthood. Discuss breathing problems with your doctor and undertake lung function testing as undiagnosed asthma is risky, or there could be another condition such as COPD or emphysema present”.

Patients are directed to the Adult Asthma Factsheet, while health professionals can view the My Asthma Guide Handbook reference.

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