A spate of deaths following a thunderstorm asthma outbreak in Melbourne last week should be seen as a timely reminder of the seriousness of the condition, experts in Bendigo say.
Bendigo Community Health Services respiratory health nurses Chris Elliott and Jan Moore said some asthma sufferers did not take the condition that kills at least one person every day in Australia seriously enough.
“We tend to give asthma categories, so if you’ve been told that you’ve got mild asthma, chances are you don’t worry about it too much,” she said.
“A classification of mild asthma means you may only have symptoms once or twice a year – however you could still have an attack that’s serious enough to endanger your life.”
The reminder comes after Victoria’s chief health officer Charles Guest released an official warning about the condition yesterday, as the death toll from last week’s outbreak now stands at eight.
The crisis triggered more than 1900 calls to paramedics, and hospitals across Melbourne were inundated with 8500 patients suffering from respiratory conditions.
Ms Moore said up to 80 per cent of asthma sufferers did not know how to use the medication correctly, which she said may have contributed to the high death toll from last week’s outbreak.
“That is the one thing that perhaps may have been able to reduce the amount of resources that were actually needed and the call on emergency services that happened over that whole period,” she said.
Ms Moore said while perceptions around chronic ailments like asthma tended to downplay their seriousness, the condition which claimed the lives of 451 Australians in 2015 was anything but trivial.
“Something many people with chronic conditions talk about is that other people tend to see them as being a bit of a malingerer or a moaner because it’s not obvious what’s the matter with them,” she said.
“They don’t like telling people they’ve got asthma so we need to have a whole community recognition of asthma’s seriousness.”
The nurses said it was vital asthma sufferers and those around them knew how to use their medication correctly and what to do in an emergency, to help prevent a repeat of the recent cluster of deaths.
“If a person’s having an asthma attack they may not be able to convey to other people around them what needs to be done,” Ms Moore said.
“Know about your asthma, recognise worsening symptoms, know about your medication and how it works and how to take it correctly and to have it with you the whole time.”
For a free consultation call Bendigo Community Health Services on 5434 4300.