Last updated on 30/04/2018

Asthma Australia data from 2017 shows referrals for asthma support peaked during winter, prompting the organisation to advise people with asthma to take flu fighting measures including vaccination.

Asthma affects 1 in 9 Australians and kills around 400 people a year, World Asthma Day is 1st May.

For the majority of people with asthma the condition can be well managed by regularly taking prescribed preventer medication and following an Asthma Action Plan.

According to Asthma Australia’s 2017 data, 64% of those who were referred for support or contacted the free 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) service, listed colds and flu as a trigger for asthma.

“We know that respiratory viruses including the flu are one of the most common asthma triggers and can cause asthma flare-ups that require time off work, emergency treatment or hospitalisation. GPs and other health practitioners can refer patients to our 1800 ASTHMA service for support with their asthma management and last year we had our highest number of referrals in winter, from June to August. This is likely due to a higher number of respiratory infections at this time of year leading to asthma exacerbations,” said Michele Goldman, CEO of Asthma Australia.

Asthma Australia has produced a checklist for cold and flu season for people with asthma to follow to reduce their risk this winter:
1. Visit your doctor for an asthma review
2. Take the Asthma Control Test
3. Take preventer medication every day when well
4. Check your device technique
5. Get a written Asthma Action Plan
6. Consider an annual flu vaccination

“If you have not already been immunised now is a great time to get the flu vaccine,” said Ms Goldman, “But it’s also vital that people with asthma are practising good asthma management year-round as this reduces the risk of serious flare-ups.

It’s estimated up to 90% of people may be using their inhaler incorrectly so people with asthma should visit their GP for an asthma review and to get their device technique checked. A GP can also provide an up to date Asthma Action Plan that includes the right medications, particularly a preventer, which is really important for good management.”

Heathmont mum Felicity Cameron has asthma and so does her seven-year-old daughter Grace.

“Our first experience of Grace’s asthma was so traumatising that I worry more about her than about myself. At age 3 she was struggling to breathe and was taken to hospital and had to be resuscitated.
Grace’s asthma is viral induced so the times she is most affected are during winter when there are cold and flu bugs around. I’m always vigilant at this time of year, we have the flu shot and we try not to go outdoors too late when it’s cold.
When she’s taking her preventer medication regularly and if we can avoid viruses she is fine, you’d hardly even know she has asthma.”