It’s no secret that the past year has been a roller coster for the majority of people. But it’s been a particularly rough year for people with asthma, Michele Goldman, CEO of Asthma Australia, tells Starts at 60.
Last year was “a real bugger for people with asthma and allergies,” she says. “Starting off with the bushfire crisis, where our cities were blanketed in smoke for weeks … We hadn’t recovered from the fires and then we were hit with a global respiratory pandemic.”
As a chronic respiratory condition, asthma has been considered a risk factor for Covid-19, although Goldman stresses that a global study commissioned by Asthma Australia found people with asthma are not more at risk. However, in the situation where a person with asthma contracts coronavirus, they may be more likely to develop a serious illness if they’re over the age of 50 or have severe asthma. As a result, Goldman says many asthma suffers have avoided doctor appointments, which is also concerning.
It comes as a newly released survey from YouGov Galaxy shows Aussies with asthma experienced worsening symptoms in 2020 and are feeling concerned about their condition going into the new year. A further breakdown of the survey found 30 per cent are concerned about the continuing impact of Covid-19 in 2021, and 20 per cent are concerned about bushfires in 2021 in relation to their asthma.
“It’s been like a triple whammy with the [bush]fires, pandemic and [now] the storms,” Goldman adds. Stormy weather, which usually runs from November to April, can be a trigger for some asthma sufferers, as well as non-asthma sufferers, she reveals.
If you have asthma or just want to take extra precautions and are hoping for a healthier new year, Goldman has shared her top tips, below.
First things first, Goldman says it’s really important not to dismiss or underestimate symptoms. If you’re experiencing breathlessness or unexplained wheezing, she says it could be a sign of asthma. “Many older people who experience asthma later in life, tend to [put it down] as ‘I’m just getting older’, so it’s really important you don’t just dismiss it,” she explains.
If you do have asthma, she explains that it’s critical you take your asthma preventative consistently, especially during storm season. Why? According to Goldman, thunderstorm weather can cause pollen grains to burst into tiny pieces, which can then travel into your airways (thanks to their small size) and trigger an asthma attack. However, if you’ve been taking your asthma preventative regularly for some time, the likelihood of suffering from an asthma attack is reduced.
Meanwhile, Goldman adds that keeping your (blue) reliever inhaler with you is also vital, saying, “Always have your reliever on-hand, so if you do have symptoms, you can address them quickly.”
And if it’s been a while since you last looked at or spoke to your GP about your Asthma Action Plan, now’s the time to follow-up on that. Your plan should include medications when well, medications when not well, medications and instructions if asthma symptoms are getting worse, and signs asthma symptoms are getting worse and when someone should call an ambulance.
Finally, Goldman reckons maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help keep your asthma under control. “Make sure you eat well, get plenty of exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle,” she concludes.