Asthma deaths at '18 year high' – but what's causing the rise?

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Asthma deaths have increased by 33% in the past decade. [Photo: Getty]

Asthma deaths have increased by a third in a decade, according to research from a leading body.

“It’s the highest since 2001,” a representative for Asthma UK told Yahoo UK. “We can’t say if it’s the highest ever because data wasn’t collected before then.”

Deaths from the lung condition have increased by more than 33% over the last ten years, according to Asthma UK’s analysis of data from The Office for National Statistics (ONS).

READ MORE: Smoking near pregnant women increases unborn child's asthma risk

The body is calling on the NHS to take urgent action – including addressing the lack of basic care surrounding asthma.

Rise in asthma attacks

More than 1,400 people have died from an asthma attack in the past year alone, the findings show - an 8% increase compared to 2017.

There has also been a rise in men dying from asthma attacks and a 42% increase in deaths among 35 and 44 year olds in the last year.

What causes an asthma attack?

Asthma symptoms flare up when sufferers come into contact with a specific trigger – which can include pollen, dust, pet hair or pollution. The sufferer’s airways react and tighten, reducing the amount of air that can be delivered to the lungs.

Attacks occur when a sufferer’s airways are so inflamed it is difficult to breathe. Signs include chest tightness, wheezing and coughing.

More information is available on the Asthma UK website.

But why is there now a rise in potentially fatal asthma attacks?

“One of the reasons for the rise is a lack of basic care. That’s something that can change now as GPs can make sure patients get basic care,” the representative told Yahoo UK.

“Other reasons could be pollution, extreme weather and complacency about the seriousness of asthma. But the lack of basic care is the most important and pressing issue.”

Basic asthma care

While factors such as pollution and extreme weather are outside of our direct control, Asthma UK is calling upon sufferers to take “basic care” over their condition.

Kay Boycott, Chief Executive of Asthma UK, said: “It is completely unacceptable that thousands of people with asthma in England and Wales have died needlessly from asthma attacks.

READ MORE: Why are asthma deaths so high for young people in the UK?

“It’s been five years since the National Review of Asthma Deaths found that two-thirds of deaths from asthma attacks could have been prevented with basic care, yet we are still seeing tragic cases of lives being cut short.

A woman is using an asthma inhaler indoor

She added: “The same mistakes are being made again and again because essential recommendations have not been implemented. This lack of action is costing lives and devastating families and communities.”

The recommendations from Asthma UK include:

1 Use a written asthma action plan

You are “four times less likely” to go to hospital with asthma if you carry one of these – the website recommends filling in a form, which can be provided by your GP or asthma nurse, and carry the form or a picture of it on your phone at all times.

2 Check your inhaler technique

“Bad habits” surrounding inhaler usage can mean up to half of the medicine is wasted.

READ MORE: One woman’s asthma turned out to be something more serious

Make sure you follow your medical expert’s advice on how to administer the medicine in order to improve symptoms and reduce side effects, the website advises.

3 Book in your annual asthma review

Visit your GP or asthma nurse once a year to review your treatment plan.

“You can talk to your GP or asthma nurse about how you are, ask about any problems, and even check things like your peak flow readings so they can change your medicine or dose or reassure you that you can carry on as you are,” says the website.