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CATCHING a cold or the flu could put more than four million Brits at risk of a deadly asthma attack, a charity has warned.
A study of more than 7,500 people found more than 80 per cent of people reported the flu made their asthma symptoms worse, according to Asthma UK.
That amounts to an 4.3 million people in the UK.
Last year, more than 40,000 people with asthma were hospitalised after falling ill during the winter months.
And recent figures reveal some 193 people have died of flu-related complications this winter, prompting the charity to urge people with asthma to protect themselves.
That includes carrying your inhaler everywhere you go, taking your preventative medicine and wrapping up warm to protect yourself from the cold air.
Dr Andy Whittamore, a GP and Asthma UK’s clinical lead, said: “The flu outbreak this year is extremely concerning and needs to be taken seriously.
“As many as four in five people with asthma could be at an increased risk of life-threatening asthma attacks if they catch the virus.
“The best way for people with asthma to stay safe this winter is to make sure they take their asthma medicines as prescribed.
“This ensures their airways are less inflamed and sensitive, and will help them to resist the effects of the flu.
“Everyone with asthma should also make sure they are washing their hands regularly to prevent spreading viruses, and look after themselves by eating a varied, balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.”
Cold air can irritate the lining of your lungs and throat, triggering asthma symptoms.
Asthma UK recommends wearing a scarf over your mouth to help warm the air your are breathing in.
Millions of people are thought to have been affected by the flu this winter, according to the online tool FluSurvey.
Flusurvey relies on 7,500 members of the public reporting when they are suffering flu-like symptoms – so the true number of flu cases is likely to be higher.
It has previously been suggested that the flu outbreak could become an epidemic if cases of the bug continue to rise.
An epidemic can only be declared by the Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies – and GP consultations would need to reach a rate of more than 100 cases per 100,000 people.
The latest statistics from Public Health England (PHE), published last week, show the rate of GP consultations for the flu have reached 52.1 per 100,000.
Health bosses have renewed their call for people to get vaccinated against the flu as it is their best possible defence to prevent the bug.
Data from Public Health England last month showed this flu season is the “most significant” in seven years.
A LUNG CONDITION THAT CAUSES BREATHING DIFFICULTIES
Asthma affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also appear for the first time in adults.
It is caused by inflammation of the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.
This inflammation makes the breathing tubes highly sensitive, so they temporarily become narrow.
This may occur randomly, or after exposure to a trigger like dust, pollen, smoke and even exercise.
The main symptoms include
- a tight chest
Symptoms can sometimes get temporarily worse, this is known as an asthma attack.
There is no known cure for asthma but the symptoms can be managed with a number of treatments.
Most asthma treatments are taken using an inhaler, a small device that delivers a spray or powder medicine to your breathing tubes as you breathe in.
The main treatments are:
- avoiding potential triggers
- reliever inhalers – inhalers used when needed to quickly relieve asthma symptoms for a short time
- preventer inhalers – inhalers used every day to reduce the inflammation in the breathing tubes
Source: NHS Choices
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