Harder to breathe?

May 04, 2010, 7:20 PM GMT+0

Although asthma affects over a million children in the UK, only around one in ten UK adults claim to be completely confident about how to act if a child in their care was having an asthma attack, a survey commissioned by Asthma UK as part of their World Asthma Day to raise awareness of the condition, has found.

Only 12% of respondents believe they would be completely confident about what to do in the event of an asthma attack, while 16% stated they were ‘not at all confident’. And while 35% of the public believe that they would be ‘fairly confident’, this is closely followed by the 31% who claim that they would not be very confident of how to act in such a situation, putting the number who feel less than completely confident at a worryingly large 81%.

The survey highlights the prevalence of the British public’s lack of awareness of asthma, especially among young people. The number of those who are not at all confident on how to help a child who is experiencing a asthma attack rises to almost a quarter (24%) for 18 to 24 year-olds. Furthermore, just eight percent of those aged 25 to 34 believe they are completely confident about what they would do in such an event.

And it isn’t just a case of those with children knowing what they’re doing, and those without children having a perhaps understandable blind spot towards their care. While 33% of adults with no children in the household reported feeling ‘fairly confident’ about what to do if a child were to have an asthma attack, compared to a higher 41% among those with at least one child in the home, only 13% of those with at least one child in the household felt ‘completely confident’ – exactly the same proportion as those without any children in the home. It seems that having children does not necessarily equal a heightened awareness of what to do in the event of an attack.

Asthma UK suggests that the results highlight an urgent need for more education about the condition and the risks it presents. Studies show that one 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.’ He recommends ordering an ‘Asthma Attack Card’ from the charity’s website, which suggests simple steps people can take to help children (and adults) with the potentially life-threatening condition.

World Asthma Day is today (4th May 2010).

Survey details and results