Do you know someone affected by asthma? Chances are you do; currently there are over two million Australians living with the disease1. The statistics are alarmingly high – made even more serious when you consider that over 400 people die from the condition each year2 – and researchers are yet to find a cure3. So, for now, we need to concentrate on understanding and effectively managing the disease as best we can, to prevent more fatalities and to help those affected live a healthy, active lifestyle.
So what is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease where a person’s airways react strongly to triggers they are allergic to or are simply irritated by. When the trigger is present, the person’s airways become inflamed and the muscles surrounding them tighten, making it difficult to breathe3.
Common asthma triggers include colds and flu, inhaled allergens such as pollens, moulds, animal dander and dust mites, as well as smoke, physical activity and exercise. In some cases, even something as simple, and unpredictable, as changes in temperature can cause an attack3. For each person, the trigger and the reaction can be different. The good news is that with a little bit of help, the disease is manageable.
People with asthma can take control by putting in place an action plan (with their doctor) and ensuring they have regular asthma check-ups (as asthma can change over time). An action plan arms those living with the disease with knowledge about their triggers, how to respond to their symptoms, how to best utilise their medication including correct use of preventer medication, and when to seek medical help3.
However, while an action plan is certainly a great way for those with asthma to lead fulfilling lives, the reality is that an asthma attack can occur at any time. That’s where MedicAlert membership comes in.
MedicAlert membership offers a simple, though potentially life-saving addition to any asthma action plan. A MedicAlert ID carries the internationally recognised MedicAlert emblem and is engraved with your personal medical information, membership number and a 24/7 hotline number for emergency service to call for more information. Should a medical emergency arise, emergency services and healthcare professionals can easily recognise that you’re an asthma sufferer and respond accordingly.
1 May 2012 is World Asthma Day, a day dedicated to improving asthma awareness and taking control of the disease. So if you are living with asthma, or know of someone who is, this month is the perfect time to consider how best to manage a condition that should not be allowed to hold you back.
- 1 National Asthma Council Australia 2006, Asthma Management Handbook 2006. National Asthma Council Australia, Melbourne, Australia.
- 2 National Asthma Council Australia 2012, date accessed: 23 April 2012 http://www.nationalasthma.org.au.
- 3 Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring 2011, Asthma in Australia 2011. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra, Australia.