Asthma nurses can play a vital role in keeping those with the condition out of hospital during the peak season for colds and flu, according to a charity.
Asthma UK is urging people to consult GPs and asthma nurses early on to help prevent potentially life-threatening attacks.
The warning comes after a survey by the charity suggests many people may be delaying treatment.
Around 70% of the 270 people who responded to the poll reported having a severe asthma attack in the past four weeks.
“If the warning signs are there [asthma patients] must make an appointment to see their GP or asthma nurse as soon as possible”
But more than half – 57% – of respondents thought twice about going to A&E despite knowing they needed specialist treatment.
With a spike in colds and flu at this time of the year, asthma sufferers are more at risk of potentially fatal attacks.
The charity urged people not to delay seeking emergency treatment during a serious attack and also highlighted the need to recognise the warning signs and to get help early on.
“The warning signs of an asthma attack can start to come on two to three days beforehand and so can still potentially be prevented,” said Asthma UK chief executive Kay Boycott.
“We’re hearing of emergency asthma admissions soaring and people have told us they’re waiting hours to be seen in A&E”
She added: “If the warning signs are there they must make an appointment to see their GP or asthma nurse as soon as possible, especially if they have a cold or the flu.
“GPs and practice nurses can keep people out of hospital by checking they are on the right medicines and taking them correctly.”
She said it was particularly vital to ensure asthma cases were well-managed in coming weeks due to unprecedented pressures on emergency departments.
“In some areas we’re hearing of emergency asthma admissions soaring and people with asthma have told us they’re waiting hours to be seen in A&E,” she said.
Some had been forced to wait in ambulance queues while others had to share basic medical equipment like oxygen canisters with several other patients, Ms Boycott added.