11.04.2021

Asthma deaths shoot up by a quarter in just five years

Hundreds of asthma patients are dying unnecessarily every year because NHS treatment is trailing behind most of Europe, experts say.

The UK’s asthma death rate is 50 per cent higher than the European average, and more than three times higher than the Dutch figure.

The number of Britons who suffered a fatal attack increased by 24.6 per cent from 1,151 in 2011 to 1,434 in 2015.

Experts blame complacency among both medical staff and patients in the routine care of the condition, prevention and during attacks.

Hundreds of asthma patients are dying unnecessarily every year because NHS treatment is trailing behind most of Europe, experts say

Hundreds of asthma patients are dying unnecessarily every year because NHS treatment is trailing behind most of Europe, experts say

Living near a farm cuts allergy risk

Living in the countryside could reduce your risk of allergies if your home is near a farm, according to a study.

Dutch researchers found the closer someone lives to pigs and cattle, the less likely they are to suffer allergies.

A home within 500 yards of a pig farm, or 400 yards of a cattle farm, cuts the risk of allergy by more than a third.

Researchers led by the University of Utrecht took blood samples and surveys from nearly 2,500 people aged between 20 and 72.

Nearly a third had allergies – mainly to grass and dust mites – but also to dogs and cats, or a high levels of antibodies indicating an allergic condition. The authors wrote in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine: ‘Despite concerns about the influence of air pollution from livestock farms on public health, our study found results that are indicative of potentially beneficial health effects of living in close proximity to farms.’

Living on a farm was known to reduce allergies, probably by exposing people to bacteria from livestock, which prevents their immune system from overreacting.

But the latest study suggests living near a farm also helps, with those living 330 yards from any type of livestock farm are 27 per cent less likely to have an allergy than those living further away.

Charities last night said that the findings were ‘shocking’ and called for better monitoring and improved treatment for patients.

Dr Samantha Walker, director of research at Asthma UK, said: ‘It is truly shocking that so many people in the UK are dying from asthma attacks, and while other countries are improving, we are lagging behind. While we don’t know for sure why the UK is performing so poorly in preventing deaths from asthma, we think a lack of understanding could play a part.

‘Asthma kills and we are urging the NHS to invest in better frontline asthma services, for people with asthma to make sure they take their medication properly, and for healthcare professionals to take asthma seriously, diagnose asthma patients effectively and treat them promptly.’

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that inflames and narrows the airways, causing breathing problems. It can be triggered by anything from pollution to cold and flu.

There are 5.4million asthmatics in Britain – including 1.1million children – affecting about a fifth of households.

Britain also has one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the world, with an estimated one in 11 having the lung condition.

The exact cause of asthma is not known, although it often runs in families and is more likely if a person has allergies, their mother smoked, or if they had a lung infection as a child.

Asthma UK analysed figures from 2011 to 2015, and found death rates in Britain rose from 1.83 per 100,000 people, to 2.21 – an increase of 21 per cent. Over the five years, Britain had an average death rate of 1.98, compared to the European average of 1.32. The average in the Netherlands was 0.56, while Italy’s figure was 0.67.

Of the 33 countries featured, only Serbia, Turkey, Estonia, Spain and Cyprus had worse death rates than the UK.

Asthma UK said the figures, released to mark World Asthma Day today, suggested patients could be missing out on basic care. Previous studies have found that clinicians and patients become complacent about the illness. Asthma symptoms come and go, and some patients can forget or feel that it is not necessary to keep taking medication.

The UK¿s asthma death rate is 50 per cent higher than the European average, and more than three times higher than the Dutch figure

The UK’s asthma death rate is 50 per cent higher than the European average, and more than three times higher than the Dutch figure

Asthma UK said almost two thirds of asthmatics were not receiving the basic care from healthcare professionals they were entitled to, including a yearly review, checks to ensure they were using their inhaler properly and a written action plan. The charity said this was ‘extremely worrying’, and called for healthcare professionals to follow guidelines, and for those with asthma to get in touch if they need health advice.

Dr Richard Russell, medical adviser to the British Lung Foundation, said: ‘There is no reasonable explanation for why people should be experiencing a postcode lottery in the treatment of asthma.

‘This is unacceptable. All deaths from asthma are potentially avoidable, and when looked at in detail you can see how people may have been saved. There is urgent need for patients with asthma and healthcare professionals to be aware of the signs and symptoms of severe asthma that may need immediate attention.

‘We must have a national plan and public campaign to improve care for people with any lung condition. This will help strengthen public awareness and understanding.’

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