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More Kiwi Children Being Hospitalised with Asthma - Report

1 May 2018

Parents are being warned to be more vigilant in managing their children’s asthma with a new report showing increasing numbers of Kiwi children being hospitalised for the disease.

The Massey University report found an increase of 45% in the rates of Kiwi children hospitalised with asthma from 2002 (473 per 100,000) to 2016 (688 per 100,000). According to the report authors, more than 6000 children under the age of 15 were hospitalised with asthma in 2016.

While many children grow out of asthma as they age, one in every nine adults are believed to be living with the disease. New Zealand’s high rates of asthma carries a significant cost burden - estimated to be more than $850m annually, including the loss in productivity at work and the direct costs of medical treatment.

Associate Professor Jim Reid from Otago University says New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world with around 70 people dying from the disease each year.

Recent research shows the prevalence of asthma in New Zealand children is approximately 15%, with 11% of adults also affected. More than 521,000 Kiwis are estimated to need medication for the disease.

“While we don't fully understand why the rates of asthma are so high among New Zealand adults and children, more needs to be done to get asthma under control.

Professor Reid says with winter approaching, it's important to be aware of the seasonal changes with viral infections being one of the major asthma triggers.

“With the onset of cold and flu season, it is critical that adult asthmatics and parents watch out for asthma symptoms which may signal a potentially deadly attack.

“If asthmatics begin to exhibit an increasing wheeze that doesn't respond to a reliever inhaler which is usually blue in colour, they have difficulty speaking in full sentences or they begin to turn blue - these are all signs they need immediate medical intervention from a doctor,” he says.

Professor Reid says asthmatics and parents need to be aware of what can set off an attack and have a management plan in place beforehand.

“Common asthma triggers to be aware of include; a cold or virus, cigarette smoke (including passive smoking), exposure to nitrogen dioxide from gas heaters and car exhausts and, indoor dampness or mould.

“As the temperature drops at this time of year, cold air can cause constriction of airways which is also a risk factor for asthmatics. It is important to maintain a temperature of around 20 degrees in the home,” he says.

Professor Reid says the key to getting the nation’s asthma burden under control is a simple Asthma Control Test (ACT) which is done at either a pharmacy, doctor’s surgery or online at

“The test gives you a measure of how significant the symptoms of asthma are in that patient.

“In studies we’ve done we have found that people’s perception of how in control they are of their own, or their children’s asthma, is quite out of step with their actual results,” he says.

Professor Reid says anyone who is using their reliever inhaler more than three times a week, needs to take the test and see their healthcare provider to get their asthma under control. He says it is best to treat the cause of the symptoms by either avoiding them or using preventer inhalers, rather than treating the symptoms when they arise.

“The ACT gives GPs and pharmacists a clear insight into the level of control patients have over their symptoms. The ACT score can be used to modify a patient’s medications and significantly improve their quality of life,” he says.

High res images can be found here


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