While many Aussies are welcoming the beginning of the warmer weather, the start of spring can also spark fear in people who live with asthma. Between 7 and 15 per cent of people over the age of 65 are currently living with the condition, although it can impact people of any age.
Recent figures from the Australian Population survey show that self-reported current asthma rates are 9 per cent for men aged between 65 and 74, and 13 per cent for women.
“New cases of adult-onset asthma can occur at any age,” Feras Keram, CEO and pharmacist at Pharmacy 4 Less tells Starts at 60. “Asthma is under-diagnosed and commonly misdiagnosed in older people. The diagnosis is unrecognised in an estimated 50 per cent of people with asthma aged over 75 years.”
For many, pollen is a major trigger around spring time, so simple things such as monitoring the pollen count and forecast can make a big difference. It’s also important to regularly visit a GP.
“Generally speaking, people with asthma should see their doctor twice a year irrespective of how well their asthma is controlled,” Keram says. “If there are any changes to their medication, whether introducing a new medicine or stepping up or down on their dosage, the frequency should be two – four weeks or as recommended by their healthcare provider.”
There are also various things over-60s can be doing when it comes to managing their asthma symptoms. It’s always important to be armed with preventers and relievers, especially in the event of thunderstorms or a high pollen count between October and December. Meanwhile, it’s important that all preventers and relievers are used as prescribed by a health professional.
“Make sure to know how to use your asthma puffer,” Karam says. “Mastering the techniques is important for better medication delivery. If they have other conditions that prevent them from using asthma puffers correctly, like arthritis, speak to pharmacists or doctors and they can find solutions for you.”
In addition, using a spacer with a puffer will allow medicine to be delivered to the lungs, while those living with asthma should focus on keeping it under control by taking medication as prescribed and explaining any side effects to a doctor or pharmacist. It’s also important to be aware that other health conditions can impact the severity of asthma.
“Older asthmatic patients may have other comorbidities that may exacerbate their asthma condition like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, arthritis,” Karam says. “They should manage their overall health to be able to better manage their asthma.”
There are also lifestyle choices Boomers can make to decrease the side effects of asthma, such as avoiding bad asthma triggers including cigarette smoke, wine, indoor air pollution, cats, thunderstorms, chemicals and fumes. Having an asthma action plan (AAP) in place can help in the event of an asthma emergency.
“[An] AAP will guide patients to the best course of action in an event of asthma attack,” Karam explains. “In the case of an asthma emergency, use the reliever as prescribed and stated in the AAP. If symptoms are not resolved, or getting worse, then dial 000 for an ambulance. “