In 2011, 5.4 million people in the UK are receiving treatment for asthma of which 1.1 million are children and 4.3 million are adults. This equates to one child in eleven and one adult in twelve. I don’t know about you, but personally I find this figure quite staggering and this makes asthma the most common long-term medical condition. The UK has the highest rate of asthma symptoms amongst children in the world which is not a statistic of which we can be proud.
In school classrooms in the UK, on average you will find there are two “asthmatic” children, i.e. children who suffer from asthma. However,my 6 year old son has asthma and there are at least 3 other children in his class at primary school who are fellow sufferers. As an asthma sufferer myself and a parent to an asthmatic child, I completely understand how distressing it can be to watch your child wheezing, coughing and even struggling to breathe. I am also eternally grateful for the existence and widespread availability of inhalers and preventers which make normal life possible 99% of the time.
Many people today would not think of asthma as a killer, but you would be wrong as even with modern day medical and social advances, asthma can kill. In the UK in 2009 over 1,100 people died from asthma of which 12 were children aged 14 or under. The good news is that asthma is treatable though and for the most part, deadly asthma attacks are preventable.
If one or more parent has asthma, the child’s chances of developing asthma are approximately double that of a child whose parents do not suffer from the condition. Unfortunately children living in homes where damp and mould are present are 1.5 to 3 times more likely to experience the coughing and wheezing associated with asthma. This would suggest that the poorer members of the population living in sub-standard accommodation are possibly more susceptible to developing asthma.
In some children, albeit a minority, a child’s asthma is severe enough to prevent them from attending school resulting in days, weeks, even months of absence which of course brings a whole new set of problems with children falling behind with school work and being excluded from activities because of their wheezing and breathlessness. A survey suggests that about a third of children under 8 years old feel that they are often excluded from sports activities at school because of their asthma and a considerable number of parents do not feel confident enough that sports and PE teachers know how to deal with an asthma attack. However, the availability of modern asthma inhalers and preventers has made a huge impact on the ability of children and adults alike to live normal lives and not miss out on sporting and social activities.
Modern day inhaler devices are completely portable, readily available from doctors and highly effective for the majority of asthma sufferers. In recent times there have been highly publicised “confessions” by high profile, famous sports personalities such as the footballer David Beckham, who admitted being an asthma sufferer and using an inhaler thus helping to remove the “stigma” of asthma, particularly for children.