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Spare a thought for asthma suffers - today is World Asthma day

So why are we writing about asthma on our blog?

Because asthma kills between 100 and 200 New Zealanders every year and because New Zealand has one of the highest prevalence rates of asthma in the world.

Around 15% of adults and 20% of children aged 6-14 have asthma. This equates to 1 in 6 New Zealanders – almost 700,000 people in total. That’s like all the people living in Wellington and Christchurch!!

And that’s precisely why most (if not all) life insurance companies want to know if you’re an asthma sufferer before offering you a life insurance policy. If you are, they’ll generally follow a line of further questioning or tests to try and predict if you are likely to die from asthma.

But insurers would also admit (if you could corner them over a beer) that identifying high-risk asthma suffers is a challenge. One of the key indicators is supposedly the number of previous life-threatening asthma attacks you’ve had. Yet in a US study of around 900 patients in whom fatal or near-fatal asthma was reported, only 36% were admitted to hospital in the preceding 12 months and just 6% had ever been admitted to an intensive care unit.

It’s interesting that whilst we know a lot about what triggers asthma and how to manage it, we still don’t yet fully understand what causes people to develop asthma in the first place. Likely causes have been established such as diet, weather, climate and the timing and number of respiratory infections in early life.

Obviously a lot more still to learn.

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