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Public ignorance putting children with asthma at risk

Shocking new data released by Asthma UK on World Asthma Day (4 May) suggests that 88% of UK adults would not be completely confident about what to do if a child with asthma in their care had an asthma attack.

The lack of public awareness about asthma was highlighted by the recent inquest into the death of 11 year old Samuel Linton, from Stockport, who was left in a corridor at school for several hours after suffering an asthma attack. The inquest found that school staff lacked vital training on how to recognise an asthma attack and what to do in an emergency situation. Separate survey data** shows that three quarters of teachers in England do not feel completely confident about what to do if a child in their class has an asthma attack, which is particularly worrying as asthma is the most common long-term condition in children in the UK and affects over a million children.
Asthma is believed by many to be a mild and harmless condition, yet a child is admitted to hospital as a result of the condition every 19 minutes in the UK and the equivalent of a classroom of children die from asthma every year.
Neil Churchill, Asthma UK’s Chief Executive says: ‘The complacency that exists about asthma in the UK is shocking and dangerous and cannot continue. Every member of the public needs to know the signs of worsening asthma and what steps to take if someone suffers an asthma attack. Not acting quickly enough can result in needless deaths that shatter lives. The NHS also needs to take a zero tolerance approach to asthma deaths - parents who have lost children to asthma have told us they feel that a more proactive approach from health professionals might have made a crucial difference.’
Asthma UK recommends that anyone unsure of what to do in an asthma attack should order an Asthma Attack Card, to support children and adults with the condition.  The wallet sized card carries life saving information on the simple steps to take and can be ordered through, by calling 0800 121 62 55 or emailing
How to spot an asthma attack:
Their reliever inhaler (usually blue) does not help symptoms
Their symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheeze or tight chest)
They are too breathless to speak, eat or sleep
What to do:
Get them to take their reliever inhaler (usually blue), immediately
Sit them down and ensure that any tight clothing is loosened
If there is no immediate improvement, continue to get them to take one puff of their reliever inhaler every minute for five minutes or until symptoms improve
If their symptoms do not improve in this time – or you are in doubt – call 999 or a doctor urgently
Continue to get them to take one puff of their reliever inhaler every minute until help arrives
The majority of life threatening asthma attacks could be avoided through better routine asthma management and the use of tools such as personal asthma action plans.

Asthma UK’s advice for everyone with asthma is to have an action plan as those with a plan are four times less likely to suffer a serious asthma attack requiring hospital treatment. Asthma action plans play a key part in helping people to stay in control of their asthma. Completed with you by your doctor or nurse, it contains details about your asthma medicines, how to tell when your symptoms are getting worse and what to do, including in the case of an asthma attack. Action plans are available from your surgery or from Asthma
World Asthma Day coincides with Asthma UK’s annual fundraising week Putting Asthma in the Limelight, which runs from 1 to 9 May.

This year the week is led by Heart DJ Toby Anstis and people are urged to raise funds to enable Asthma
, which runs from 1 to 9 May.

This year the week is led by Heart DJ Toby Anstis and people are urged to raise funds to enable Asthma
UK to fund research that will result in new treatments for adults and children with asthma and provide support and advice to over 5 million people with asthma.

Supporters are encouraged to help by being sponsored to wear a lime green wig for the day, selling lime iced cakes in the office or having a karaoke night with friends as part of a
UK wide Big Sing Song organised on World Asthma Day.
For further information or for interview with spokespeople, case studies or an asthma nurse contact the Asthma UK media office on 020 7786 4949 or at
Notes to Editors
* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2273 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th - 15th April 2010.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
** From a representative sample of over 1,600 teachers across England in a survey conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (Teacher Voice Omnibus) in February 2009.
About asthma:
* There are 1.1m children with asthma in the UK
* Asthma attacks result in more than 27,000 emergency hospital admissions each year among those aged 14 or under
1 in 8 of those aged under 15 experience asthma attacks so severe they can’t speak
Many hospital admissions for asthma and asthma deaths could be avoided if parents, carers and children themselves knew how to manage asthma better on a day to day basis
Around 10% have such severe, difficult to control asthma, that it can’t be controlled by any of the treatments currently available
About Asthma UK:
To order free Asthma Attack Cards and Personal Asthma Action Plans please call 0800 121 62 55 or email 
* To request a fundraising pack or media pack visit or call 0800 121 62 55. The media pack is available bilingually in Welsh and English.
Asthma UK is the charity dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the 5.4 million people in the UK whose lives are affected by asthma.
* For up-to-date news on asthma, information and publications, visit the Asthma UK website
For independent and confidential advice on asthma, call the Asthma UK Adviceline, which is staffed by asthma nurse specialists. It is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 0800 121 62 44.

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