Asthma expert warns - Kiwi parents underestimate the dangers of asthma

Kiwis are too cavalier in managing their asthma symptoms and could even be putting their children with asthma at risk of hospitalisation, according to Asthma NZ.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, with nearly 8000 people hospitalised each year1, and an estimated 65 deaths every year2 as a result of the condition.

More than 500,000 New Zealanders are affected by the condition with one in seven New Zealand children taking medication for asthma3, and one in nine adults4.

Linda Thompson, Executive Director of Asthma New Zealand, says patients need to be aware of how dangerous asthma can be if it is not managed appropriately.

Thompson’s warning comes ahead of World Asthma Day on May 5, a time she says to focus on the condition and for Kiwis to take stock of how they can better manage asthma in their everyday lives.

“When it comes to children, sometimes parents can underestimate the danger of asthma, and this needs to be addressed in order to keep kids out of hospital, and feeling happy and healthy despite living with the condition,” says Thompson.

Adults also needed to be aware of the potential risks of not adequately managing their symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness, and seek expert advice if their daily life was frequently restricted due to asthma, she says.

“While there is no cure for asthma, people can manage it successfully by understanding as much as possible about it, working with your practice nurse and doctor to manage the condition, and knowing about the best ways to take prescribed asthma medicine,” explains Thompson.

“It’s also important to find out what your asthma triggers are in order to avoid them wherever possible, monitor your asthma, and seek a review by your doctor, or an education session from an asthma nurse at your local Asthma NZ society, if symptoms are getting worse.”

Thompson says parents need to be informed of how asthma medication works and regularly check their child’s symptoms to ensure they are not getting worse and are being addressed effectively by the medication prescribed.

“It’s essential that people with asthma, and those living with someone who has asthma, also stop smoking or don’t start smoking in the first place,” she says. “Cigarette smoke is a very common trigger for serious asthma episodes among adults and children alike.”

For more information, visit Asthma New Zealand


  1. New Zealand Asthma Foundation, Asthma Facts 2014. Data from University of Otago Statistics 2013. Review of admission information (provided to Asthma Foundation on 1 Jan 2013).
  2. Ministry of Health Mortality Data - Asthma as cause of death, by age and sex, total population 2011.
  3. Ministry of Health Report: The Health of New Zealand Children 2011/12.
  4. Ministry of Health Report: The Health of New Zealand Adults 2011/12.

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