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Research reveals asthma misconceptions in the Illawarra

New data released by the University of Wollongong’s Centre for Health Initiatives and the Asthma Foundation NSW shows that older adults in the Illawarra underestimate their chances of developing asthma.

Survey results from a recent CHI study reveals that while the majority (85.5%) believe that asthma is a serious or very serious health condition, most (70%) do not believe that they themselves are susceptible to developing asthma.

PhD student Uwana Evers says that older people mistakenly interpret symptoms such as breathlessness as part of the ageing process. She said that many older people do not consider that their symptoms could be asthma and put up with feeling breathless, coughing or wheezing because “they are getting old”. “Our survey also found that even people who know they have asthma put up with their symptoms as they think that there is nothing they can do.”

While asthma is commonly viewed as a childhood condition, the risk of dying from an asthma attack increases with age, and in fact, most deaths from asthma occur in people over 45 years of age.

The Centre for Health Initiatives Director, Professor Sandra Jones said “our study reveals that older adults have a number of misconceptions about asthma. As well as not recognising potential symptoms of asthma, many people underestimate how serious it is. Those who are suffering from asthma symptoms are often not seeking treatment, and don’t realise that their symptoms can be managed.”

These misconceptions are the target of a new local campaign called ‘Get Your Life Back’ which is currently being run in the Illawarra. “Get Your Life Back” targets adults aged 55 years and over who are experiencing respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and breathlessness.

“We want older adults to investigate their symptoms, not put up with them. Asthma can be controlled – and you can get your life back!” Professor Jones said.

For more information call the Asthma Information Line 1800 645 130.

Media enquiries – contact Professor Sandra Jones on 0402 848 743

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