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Dangers of Asthma Highlighted

Sometimes parents need to make a fuss to keep their children out of hospital, according to the Asthma Foundation. Caroline Wood reports.

AnaphylaxisIt is estimated that every year in New Zealand 550,000 school days are lost due to asthma. One in four of our tamariki (children) have the condition, and one in six adults – the second highest rate of asthma in the world after the UK.

New figures from the University of Otago confirm there were 8,000 hospital admissions for asthma in 2011. Fifty-seven per cent of these admissions (4,540) were children under 15 years old. Of these 38 per cent, or 1,724 children, were Maori.

The prevalence of asthma is similar for Maori and non-Maori children. However Maori children tend to have more severe symptoms, require hospitalisation for asthma almost twice as often as non-Maori children, and require more time off school because of asthma.

Dr Tristram Ingham, medical adviser to the Asthma Foundation, suggests high hospitalisation rates for asthma are a failure of primary care. He said: “Particularly troubling is that Maori are less likely to have been given a peak flow meter or asthma action plan by their health professional, and fewer are prescribed preventative treatment with regular inhaled corticosteroids.”

He says that the cost of doctor visits and medicine can mean some families only take their child at a time of immediate need or when they are very sick.

The Asthma Foundation recommends people keep using their medication as prescribed and parents fill out a child asthma management plan with a health professional. This will help them manage their child’s asthma and recognise when it is deteriorating, before it becomes an emergency.

“Don’t wait until asthma is out of control to do something about it. You know your child best – have confidence to take your child to the doctor and be seen before it is an emergency, because sometimes you need to make a fuss,” adds Dr Ingham...

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Issue: Spring 2013