A NEW national poll shows that 63% of Australians have been diagnosed with asthma or know someone who has been, yet many are unaware that the disease is life-threatening and long term.

The Busting Asthma Myths report, released on the eve of National Asthma Week, highlights the perceptions and misperceptions of Australians about asthma.

National Asthma Week is held in the first week of September to raise awareness of asthma at the beginning of spring, which is a time that can trigger some people’s asthma symptoms.

The poll found that 45% of Australians said they knew someone with asthma, and 18% were diagnosed with asthma.

However, 31% did not know that the disease is life-threatening, and less than half (44%) correctly identified asthma as a chronic condition that does not go away.

Michele Goldman, CEO of Asthma Australia said:

“We know that the perceptions of the broader community have an impact on people with asthma. This National Asthma Week, we are busting common myths about asthma and providing vital facts that will help us to better understand asthma as a community and better support people with this disease.”

Over 1000 Australians from across the country took part in the YouGov Galaxy poll, which also included questions about asthma triggers and treatment.

Daily preventer medication is the best way to manage asthma, but almost half (45%) of those surveyed were not aware of this and just over one quarter (26%) of Australians incorrectly believe that the best way to control asthma is to use a blue reliever every day.

Reliever medication is intended to tackle asthma flare-ups, not to offer long term control. If a reliever puffer is needed on more than 2 days a week this indicates that a person’s asthma is not well controlled. This means they have to put up with symptoms and are more susceptible to flare-ups that can require emergency care, and in some cases be life-threatening.

Tracy Ellem is a teacher and mother of two based in Newcastle whose 10-year-old son Harrison has asthma. Tracy said education of the whole community was important.

“Harrison’s asthma is triggered by many things – cold weather, hay fever, colds and flu bugs, so he could have a flare-up any time.

“Working with children and being the parent of a child with asthma, I’m surprised by the number of parents and teachers who don’t know that asthma can be life-threatening and aren’t aware of asthma triggers. Asthma can affect people at any age and anywhere so we need workplaces, schools [and] the whole community to be well educated about asthma.”

Most Australians know that pollen (83%), smoke (83%), physical activity and exercise (76%) and cold and flus (69%) are triggers of asthma. However, fewer Australians knew that thunderstorms (46%) can also be a trigger.

“Two-thirds of Australians are [affected] by asthma,” said Michele Goldman.

“If we better understand that asthma is a long term condition that needs ongoing management, we can all better support people with the disease and work to prevent flare ups that can have devastating impacts. Together we can work as a community to better support people with asthma to manage their condition every day, and live a full and productive life.”

 

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