Master your Asthma

How can you master your asthma? If you do not suffer from asthma, it is hard to imagine what it can be like to live with the panic, terror, and feelings of suffocation, according to Richard Corrigan, Professor of Asthma, Allergy and Respiratory Science at Guy’s Hospital London. Prof. Corrigan, who specialises in looking after the 10% of asthma patients who - despite asthma treatment -do not get better, was talking at this month’s British Science Festival. He paid tribute to people suffering from asthma who have helped with his research over the last 20 years by volunteering for bronchoscopies that have yielded valuable biopsy material.

Prof. Corrigan’s work with the microscope has led him to believe that it is easier to describe the pathology of asthma than explain why some people develop it and some do not. Until our understanding of asthma advances, it has to be faced that it affects 5.4 million people in the UK. For most people their asthma symptoms are well-controlled but the grim reality is that 1,204 people, of whom 29 were children under 14, died from asthma in 2008, said Prof. Corrigan. ‘If you are looking for a child serial killer, look no further.’ According to Asthma UK, 90% of these deaths were preventable, as are 75% of emergency hospital admissions for asthma.

The key to survival, and living well, is managing your asthma, which is about simple things like practising allergen avoidance, using the right medication and knowing how to use your inhaler properly. Prof. Corrigan thinks that people either don’t use their inhalers because they are afraid of them or too busy to bother, or they simply don’t do it properly. The latter is likely to be the main reason for lack of asthma control. Prof. Corrigan believes strongly in the correct use of inhalers and is part of a European task force to help people suffering with asthma get this right. Because even a small error in technique can lead to a serious shortfall in the amount of steroid being delivered to the lungs and can mean the difference between control, and admission to A & E. Equally you should know, understand and avoid your asthma triggers which can help you live free of attacks long term. ‘We have come a long way in understanding and managing asthma in the last 20 years,’ Prof. Corrigan concluded. ‘But we still need to do more to help asthmatics master their disease, rather than have it master them.’

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Source Prof Richard Corrigan ‘So what causes asthma, then?’ British Science Festival, Birmingham, September 15 2010