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Quick facts: ASTHMA

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Facts about asthma, including common triggers and recommended management

Asthma is a common long-term condition that can cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness. According to the British Lung Foundation it affects more than 5 million people in the UK.

It is not fully understood why people develop asthma.

The condition affects the airways of the lungs causing them to become inflamed and tighten. Common triggers include:

  • House dust mites
  • Animal fur
  • Pollen
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Exercise
  • Viral infections.

It may also be triggered by substances inhaled while at work.

Although most patients manage their asthma without problems the severity of symptoms varies from patient to patient and an exacerbation of asthma symptoms may require hospital admission. There are concerns about asthma associate deaths and Why Asthma Still Kills: the National Review of Asthma Deaths published in 2014 was the first national investigation into this problem.

The report identified that a significant number of asthma deaths are preventable but clinicians in primary care are failing to adhere to BTS/SIGN guidelines.

Asthma reviews should be conducted by clinicians trained in asthma care, who can recognise high-risk patients and patients should be supported to self-manage their asthma and have written personal asthma action plans.


Asthma cannot be cure but can be managed. The aims of management are to:

  • Relieve symptoms 
  • Prevent future symptoms and attacks

This usually involves inhaled medication and identifying and avoiding possible triggers. It is vital that patients are taught inhaler technique and this is regularly reviewed.

This article explains the management of asthma in primary care: Managing acute asthma in primary care

Patients should have a personal asthma action plan agreed with their doctor or nurse that includes information about their medicines, how to recognise symptoms and action they should take.

These links provide good examples of how respiratory nurses can work with patients to manage their condition and maintain their safety:

Useful resources

  • NHS Choices “Asthma”
  • Asthma UK has developed a guide that sets out their vision for what people with asthma should expect from health professionals to manage their asthma.
  • British Lung Foundation provide information for people living with asthma, their family, friends and carers.


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