According to the National Asthma Council Australia, an estimated 7–15% of Australians aged 65 years or over have asthma – up to one in seven people. This includes people who were diagnosed with asthma in later life, as well as people who have had asthma all their lives. Perhaps more alarmingly, is that about half of all people with asthma aged 75 years or more have not been diagnosed by a doctor.
This is because many older people may not mention a breathing problem to their doctor because they think it’s just due to age, lack of fitness, being overweight, or some other health problem. This means their asthma could go untreated.
Untreated asthma is especially risky for older people. While lung function is gradually lost throughout adulthood, untreated asthma can mean that lung function deteriorates more rapidly.
Older people should not ignore problems with their breathing, or assume that symptoms are just due to getting older. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s important to raise them with your doctor:
Not everyone with asthma will have all these symptoms and some people may also exhibit other symptoms such as fatigue. Other conditions, apart from asthma, can also cause these symptoms.
Asthma triggers vary and are different for everyone. Triggers can include pollen, exercise, colds and flus and thunderstorms. The best way to prevent asthma symptoms is to use a daily preventer inhaler. According to Asthma Australia, almost one in three people don’t realise that asthma is life-threatening. More than 400 people die of asthma each year but with the right medication, knowledge and a written Asthma Action Plan, asthma can be managed and kept under control.
For further information about asthma, talk to your doctor or pharmacist, visit the National Asthma Council Australia website or contact your local Asthma Foundation on 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) or asthmaaustralia.org.au.