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    What is Asthma?
    Asthma is a condition that affects the airways the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. If you have asthma your airways are almost always sensitive and inflamed. When you come in to contact with something you are allergic to, or something that irritates your airways (a trigger), your airways will become narrower, making it harder to breathe. The muscles around the walls of your airways tighten. The lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell and often sticky mucus or phlegm is produced. This will lead to you experiencing asthma symptoms.

    Asthma is one of the more serious "allergies" and we recommend that you visit www.asthma.org.uk for additional information. The information below is sourced from their website.

    NEW: Asthma and Allergy Medication Section


     
    Symptoms of Asthma
    Asthma symptoms can vary. You may find that you start to cough or wheeze, get short of breath, or have a tight feeling in your chest. Despite what many people think, wheezing does not always occur. In fact, coughing is the most common asthma symptom.

    Asthma can start at any age. Some people get symptoms during childhood which then disappear in later life. Others develop 'late-onset' asthma in adulthood, without ever having had symptoms as a child.


     
    Risk Indicator

    Asthma can be a serious life threatening condition if left untreated. If you suspect that you or your child has asthma, consult your GP. There is currently no cure for Asthma, but most sufferers can lead a near to normal life, thanks to modern medication. If you have asthma, it will only worsen if left untreated.


    Triggers

    An asthma trigger is anything that irritates your airways. Everyone's asthma is different and you will probably find that you have several asthma triggers. Common asthma triggers include:

    viral infections (colds or 'flu)
    allergies (eg to pollen, animals, house-dust mites)
    irritants (eg cold air, tobacco smoke, chemical fumes)
    exercise

    Although it is unlikely that you will be able to avoid all your asthma triggers all of the time, steering clear of them when you can will help to keep your symptoms at bay. 

    It can be difficult to identify exactly what triggers your asthma. Sometimes the link is obvious, for example when your symptoms start within minutes of coming into contact with a cat or dog. But some people can have a delayed reaction to an asthma trigger, so some extra detective work may be needed.
    Using a diary card to record your peak flow readings and/or asthma symptoms will help you to identify your asthma triggers. You can get a free personal asthma diary card from the National Asthma Campaign or at www.asthma.org.uk . Note the times when your symptoms are worse and anything that you might have come into contact with. Discuss this with your doctor or practice nurse.

    Your doctor may also recommend a skin prick test or that you see an allergy specialist.


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    What helps?
    Regular use of your preventer inhaler will reduce the risk of an asthma attack due to colds or infections.

    A healthy diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables containing vitamin C will help fight viruses.

    Flu injections are recommended for people with severe asthma and people over the age of 60.

    Use barrier covers for your mattress, duvet and pillow and wipe them with a damp cloth once a week.

    Hot wash (at 600C) sheets, duvet covers and pillow cases once a week.

    Keep soft toys to a minimum. Either hot wash them every 1-2 weeks or put soft toys into a bag in the freezer for six hours to kill mites.

    If your in the market for a good vacuum cleaner look out for the British Allergy Foundation seal of approval. This is based upon High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration. HEPA 12 is the highest possible and filters out 99.97% of the most penetrating particles (like allergens, dust mite faeces and tobacco smoke). Besides HEPA, there's the S-Class filtration, which also rates a 99.97% filtration. This standard is required of vacuums used in hospitals.

    If you're a pet owner you should choose a cleaner with Active Air Clean filter. This filter will be more effective at removing pet hairs and eliminating odours. A turbo brush is also ideal for removing pet hair. Some new vacuum cleaners offer different types of filtration, including one that filters through water, which is a good way of trapping dust mites and allergens.

    Damp dust all surfaces daily or use an attachment on your vacuum cleaner.

    Use cotton or synthetic blankets instead of wool. They are easier to wash and are less likely to carry allergens.

    If you smoke, you could be putting your children at risk. Passive smoking is particularly harmful to young children. If you are planning a baby, it is really important that neither parents smoke. Studies have shown that children of mothers who smoke are more likely to develop asthma. Other evidence suggests that if a parent of a child with asthma stops smoking, it can decrease the severity of the child's asthma.

    Inhaling other people's smoke is hazardous for people with asthma too. Eighty per cent of people in a National Asthma Campaign survey said that other people's cigarette smoke triggered their asthma symptoms.

    If someone in your family has asthma, or if there is a family history of asthma, don't keep a furry or a feathered pet.

    Up to 50 per cent of children with asthma are triggered by an allergy to cats and/or dogs.

    The urine from guinea pigs, rats, rabbits and gerbils can cause problems too.

    Bathing cats and dogs once a week may help. Ask your vet for advice on how to do this properly.

    Always keep pets out of areas like the lounge and bedroom.

    Studies have shown that using a vacuum cleaner with a filter can reduce levels of cat allergen in the air

    Take your usual dose of reliever inhaler before going out on cold, dry days

    Wear a scarf over your face if it's cold and windy. It will help warm the air up before you breathe it in.

    Try to avoid going out in the middle of the day on hot, smoggy days.

    Thunderstorms can also release large quantities of pollen into the air and trigger asthma attacks.

    If grass pollen triggers your asthma it is important to review your treatment with your doctor or practice nurse before the hay fever season begins.

    On hot, dry days avoid spending too much time outdoors.

    Avoid long grass.

    Keep car windows closed.

    Look out for pollen forecasts on the television, in newspapers or on the internet.


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    Medication
    We have a new comprehensive allergy and asthma medication section, with info on medicines for allergies and how they work. Product information and package inserts included.

    There are two main kinds of asthma treatment that your doctor may prescribe for you. They are called relievers and preventers.

    Relievers
    Everyone with asthma should have a reliever inhaler. Relievers are treatments taken to relieve asthma symptoms. They quickly relax the muscles surrounding the narrowed airways (within 5-10 minutes), making it easier to breathe again. Reliever inhalers are usually blue.
    If you need to use your reliever inhaler more than once in any day, or more than 3-4 times a week, you will need an additional preventer treatment to keep your asthma symptoms under control. This is because relievers do not reduce the inflammation and swelling in the airways.

    Preventers
    Preventers help to control swelling and inflammation in the airways. They also stop the airways from being so sensitive to asthma triggers. The protective effect of preventer treatments builds up over a period of time, so it is important that you take them every day, even if you are feeling well. Preventer inhalers are usually brown, red or orange.
    If you take your preventer treatment regularly (as prescribed by your doctor), you will improve your long-term chances of controlling your asthma and reduce the likelihood of permanently damaging your airways.

    Steroid tablets
    Sometimes, when your asthma is first diagnosed, or if you have had a bad asthma attack, your doctor may give you a short course of a tablet form of preventer treatment (steroids). These tablets will help you to gain control of your symptoms quickly.


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    Statistics

    8 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with asthma

    5.1 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.4 million children (1 in 8) and 3.7 million adults (1 in 13).

    In Scotland, 636,000 people have been diagnosed with asthma and 400,401 people are currently receiving treatment for asthma. This consists of 113,300 children and 287,101 adults.

    On average 1,500 people die from asthma each year in the UK at least a third of those are under the age of 65. This is four people per day, or one person every six hours.

    An estimated 75% of hospital admissions for asthma are avoidable and as many as 90% of the deaths from asthma are preventable.

    Every 16 minutes a child is admitted to hospital in England, Scotland or Wales because of their asthma.

    Respiratory disease is the most common illness responsible for an emergency admission to hospital.

    Asthma now costs the NHS an average of 850 million per year.

    At a local level, the annual cost of managing asthma for an average sized primary care organisation has been estimated at 4 million.

    Over 18 million working days are lost to asthma each year.

    Approximately 3050% of the risk of developing asthma is caused by hereditary factors.

    Children whose parents smoke are 1.5 times more likely to develop asthma.

    The UK has the highest prevalence of severe wheeze in children aged 1314 years worldwide.


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