In the UK there are around 5.4 million diagnosed sufferers of asthma, including 1.1 million children. What was once a lesser known condition, severely undiagnosed, has become a part of the lives of many people who are able to manage their symptoms with prescribed inhalers.
However with recent reports surfacing of general misdiagnosis and over-diagnosis of the condition, and some specialists referring to asthma pumps as ‘almost fashion accessories’, it is important to ensure you, or your child are receiving the proper treatment for your medical condition.
A potentially life-threatening condition in which the bronchi in the lungs contract and fill with mucus in response to a trigger such a cigarette smoke, there was once a time when asthma was barely understood and rarely diagnosed.
Experts now warn that ‘the pendulum has swung the other way‘, resulting in over-diagnosis and the trivialisation of this potentially fatal disorder. However, since there is no definitive test for asthma, doctors base their diagnosis on symptoms and less commonly on nitrogen oxide levels and blood tests.
Asthma attacks result in a child being admitted to hospital every 20 minutes and kill the equivalent of a classroom each year. The inaccurate diagnoses of conditions in children, and incorrect medication for the severity of their asthma therefore has the potential to put many sufferers in danger.
Asthma symptoms commonly change throughout a sufferer’s life, with many children growing out of the disorder. As a result it is vital that you notify your GP of any changes to ensure that your child is receiving the correct medication in order to properly treat their condition.
In turn GPs are being urged to check diagnoses over time, particularly for infant patients, to ensure that a diagnosis of asthma is still relevant.
Continue with Prescribed Medication
It is extremely important that you continue to give your child their prescribed medication, whether or not you have concerns about its effectiveness. Asthma UK note that the introduction of inhalers reduced death rates dramatically, and they should be seen as ‘life savers in your pocket’.
If you believe your child’s diagnosis may be incorrect, or that their medication may not be as effective as it once was, it is vital that you book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. They will be able to assess the situation and prescribe a different medication or adjust the diagnosis if necessary.
Local Support Options
The Richmond Children’s Community Nursing Team is a service available on referral, offering care, support and education for carers of asthma sufferers, resulting in more effective home care.
The British Lung Foundation offers local Breathe Easy Support groups with numerous locations around London, as well as exercise and singing classes.