Bushfires in NSW, which are still causing poor air quality in many areas of the state, have lead to a 20 per cent spike in reported asthma cases.
These alarming figures have been made available by the Australian Medical Association.
“The bushfires have been a real wake up call for many people with asthma who may have become complacent about their condition due to the infrequency of their symptoms,” Michele Goldman, CEO of Asthma Foundation NSW, said.
Data from NSW Health shows that between Friday October 18 and Tuesday October 22, a total of 228 people attended monitored metropolitan Emergency Departments with asthma, while 799 people were treated for breathing problems by NSW Ambulance personnel.
With the potential for more bushfires over the summer and further high pollen days, Asthma Foundation NSW is urging people with asthma to continue to take their preventer medication as prescribed, even when they are feeling well.
Preventer medications help to reduce the reaction in the airways to triggers like bushfire smoke and pollen, which can prevent a severe attack that reliever medication may not be strong enough to overcome.
“We regularly hear from people that they stopped taking their asthma medication because they felt better but preventers need to be taken every day to reduce symptoms and asthma attacks, and it may take a few weeks before they reach their full effect,” Ms Goldman added.
Having good asthma control is about daily management, rather than waiting for times of flare-ups to respond as by then it may be more difficult to prevent and recover from an asthma attack.
“We have seen several children with established asthma over this period who have had increased symptoms due to the current conditions and needed increased treatment.
“It is critical that people avoid smoke exposure where possible and take their regular medications as prescribed.
“Having an Asthma Action Plan in place and seeking medical review when necessary is critical and will help them stay safe even when there is poor air quality,” Dr Paul Robinson, Staff Specialist from the Department of Respiratory Medicine, The Children's Hospital at Westmead said.
Current information on air quality across NSW can be obtained from the Office of Environment and Heritage website at: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/hourlydata.htm