Whatever the weather, be prepared on asthma

This week’s fires in Western Australia have again highlighted the importance for people with asthma of being prepared

Tony Carter, executive director of the Asthma Foundation WA, told the AJP that recent weather events have demonstrated the importance of community pharmacy in helping Australians manage their asthma and encouraging them to take preventive strategies.

Two separate bushfires which threatened suburbs in Perth’s south were contained yesterday afternoon, while a series of burnoffs are being conducted in areas surrounding Perth today. Perth residents with asthma were warned to take precautions as a result.

Carter told the AJP that on Sunday, Perth was blanketed by a haze which he said reminded him of pollution in cities such as Hong Kong.

“But a smoke haze is really quite normal for bushfire time of year, so you always have to be careful,” he says.

“Whether it be an event like the tragic events in Melbourne last week, the fires we’ve had here or the prescribed burns – just because a fire is controlled it doesn’t stop the smoke – the message is the same: it’s super important to have your asthma action plan in place and activated.

“That means carrying your emergency relief Ventolin and suchlike, and equally importantly, to take your daily dose of preventer medicine to minimise any emergency.”

Many of the people affected by last week’s thunderstorm asthma emergency had never had an asthma attack before, while others simply did not have an in-date reliever puffer on hand.

The death toll from the event has now risen to eight.

Carter says that the event highlights what many people forget: that asthma can be deadly.

“Asthma is fairly well controlled in the wider community, and deaths are becoming less prevalent, but when you all of a sudden get an influx or exacerbation like this it really brings it home to you.”

He praised community pharmacy, particularly the Asthma Friendly Pharmacies, for helping people with asthma be prepared and manage their condition.

“More and more, I’m seeing the pharmacies do a lot to make sure that the medicines they dispense are dispensed with the appropriate instructions, especially in showing people how to use the inhaler.

“And again, it’s all about talking to people about how important it is to have an action plan, and in an emergency, be prepared to ring 000 and get help – because you’re a long time without oxygen.”

Carter also encouraged pharmacists to take part in Asthma Foundation training for health professionals.

Meanwhile, Asthma Australia is asking for people affected by last week’s thunderstorm asthma event to complete a short survey to help them understand more about who was affected.

The sharp rise in triple zero calls and emergency department visits due to asthma has sparked debate about how to best prepare for thunderstorm asthma events in Melbourne.

The survey can be accessed here.

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