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2013 Asthma Information

2013 Asthma Information

Asthma Awareness Week is on the 20-26 May, with Balloon Day, our main fundraising event, on Friday 24 May.

Asthma Facts and Figures

• New Zealand has some of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the world.
One in four New Zealand children has asthma. This is over 296,000 children. See the table below showing the estimated numbers of children with asthma by region (based on the 2006 census data).
One in six New Zealand adults has asthma.
• Over 600,000 New Zealanders are affected by asthma and other respiratory conditions (based on the numbers of children and adults indicated above).
• People in New Zealand do die from asthma – 79 deaths in 2006, 61 in 2007 and 65 in 2008.
• The prevalence of asthma is similar for Māori and non-Māori children. However, Māori children with asthma tend to have more severe symptoms, require hospitalisation for asthma almost twice as often as non-Māori children, and require more time off school because of asthma.
• In New Zealand it costs about $1,200 per day to treat a child in hospital for asthma.
• In New Zealand in 2011 asthma was responsible for 8,000 hospitalisations and 2,800 day cases. Of these hospitalisations, 3,000 (or 37.5 percent) were for children under five years old.
• The economic burden of asthma in New Zealand has been conservatively estimated at over $800,000,000 per year.
• Children in New Zealand lose approximately 550,000 school days every year to asthma.
• Asthma affects approximately 235 million people worldwide and the prevalence is rising.
• Asthma causes an estimated 250,000 deaths worldwide annually.

Table showing estimated number of children under 15 years old with asthma in each region

This is derived using 2006 census population data and that one in four children has asthma (numbers rounded to nearest hundred).

2011 Total asthma admissions – Data from University of Otago review of admission information
(1 Jan 2013)

District Health BoardTotal admissionsRate per 100,000 PopnRanking
(1= highest rate of admissions)
Bay of Plenty (Tauranga)4602594
Canterbury (Christchurch)69017016
Capital and Coast (Wellington)5572188
Counties Manukau11892515
Hawke’s Bay (Wairoa/Hawke’s Bay)28721010
Hutt Valley3482663
Lakes (Rotorua/Taupo)2723041
Mid Central (Palmerston Nth)30020712
Nelson Marlborough14212919
Northland (Whangarei/Dargaville/Kawakawa/Kaitaia)26920013
South Canterbury (Timaru)429620
Southern (Southland/Otago)32213118
Tairawhiti (Gisborne)9320811
Taranaki (New Plymouth)17819214
Waikato (Hamilton)58317815
Wairarapa (Masterton)692109
Waitemata (North Shore/Waitakere)10742247
West Coast (Greymouth)4416017
Whanganui (Wanganui)1532912

Common Asthma Questions

What are some of the common misconceptions around asthma?

That asthma is a mild disease – many people have mild asthma but for some people it can be a severe and life-threatening disease. Even people with minor symptoms can have severe asthma attacks and they can start very suddenly. The good news is that asthma symptoms and control can almost always be improved with the right treatment.

That people with asthma cannot exercise – although exercise can sometimes bring on asthma symptoms, it is important not to avoid exercise. People with asthma need to keep fit just as much as anyone else. If you have asthma symptoms when you exercise, it is a sign that your asthma is not under control and you should discuss this with your doctor. With better treatment you will be able to exercise without symptoms. It is worth knowing that many elite athletes have asthma – in fact, Olympic medal winners have a higher rate of asthma than the general population, so there is no reason to let your asthma stop you from being fit.

What is Balloon Day?

Balloon Day on Friday 24 May is part of Asthma Awareness Week (20-26 May). Asthma still causes significant health problems in New Zealand and much of this could be avoided with better advice and treatment. We want to raise awareness of asthma and its treatment and prevention, and to see fewer children and adults admitted to hospital.

What does the Asthma Foundation want everyone to know about this disease?

• We are asking New Zealanders to join us in keeping our kids out of hospital.

• We hear many stories first hand about what a scary, unsure time parents and caregivers have when their children go into hospital – let alone what the children go through.

• Treating a person in hospital for asthma costs over a $1,200 per day (New Zealand Ministry of Health figures).

• The majority of asthma attacks and hospital admissions could be prevented using existing treatments. Statistics from Waikato District Health Board for 2006 show that 97 percent of hospital admissions for asthma are avoidable.

• Asthma and lower respiratory tract infections are the leading reason for children under five years old in New Zealand being admitted to hospital.

• Asthma is very common in New Zealand. We are not sure why this is and we do not yet know how we can prevent asthma from developing in the first place. However, we do know that asthma can be controlled more effectively than it often is.

What do parents experience when their child is hospitalised with asthma?

• It is a very frightening time for both the child and their parents. Severe asthma attacks often seem to come on suddenly and out of the blue.

• Parents may be surprised at how quickly a child's asthma can deteriorate, and they should not delay seeking medical help if their child is not responding to treatment.

What does research say about children with asthma being physically active?

• Exercise is very important for health and there is no good reason why children with asthma should not be fully active. On the contrary, there are good reasons why they should be fully active.

• Many top athletes have asthma – they just have to manage their asthma more effectively to allow them to exercise.

• Asthma must be well-controlled so that children can play sport.

• If you or your child finds that their asthma is stopping them from exercising, it is likely that their asthma is not well-controlled and you should discuss this with your doctor.

What advice does the Asthma Foundation give to people with asthma to gain better control?

Get an action plan – the action plan tells you the recommended treatment for your child's asthma. More importantly, it tells you how to recognise when their asthma is deteriorating and what to do about it. The plan is individualised to suit each child’s needs.

• We know that these plans can help people to manage their asthma more effectively, which results in better health, fewer days of work or school, fewer admissions to hospital and hopefully fewer tragedies. The plan is filled out by the parent/s, the child and a health professional, and can be downloaded at

Visit your asthma team regularly – it is important to build a relationship with your GP, practice nurse, asthma educator and pharmacist.

Take your asthma medication as prescribed – it is important you understand how your inhalers work and how to use them.

Be smokefree.

What is the main focus when it comes to research into respiratory illnesses?

We support a broad range of research into respiratory health. We are interested in any research on prevention, diagnosis or treatment of any respiratory disease. Obviously asthma is one of our main concerns, but we also support research on other lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory infections, as well as research on preventing lung disease including smoking cessation and healthy housing.


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