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07th May 2024

Asthma experts warn of symptoms that are ‘not normal’ and may be life-threatening

Sophie Collins


Approximately one-in-ten people in Ireland has asthma

Today marks World Asthma Day, so to raise awareness of this condition the Asthma Society is today warning that persistent symptoms should not be considered an inevitable part of life with the condition.

They are encouraging people to be aware of the fact that they could indicate a serious risk to health or life. 

An average of one person every five days died from Asthma in 2022, according to research published.

Despite the detrimental and potentially fatal effects of uncontrolled asthma, many people are living with worrying signs that indicate their condition may be uncontrolled. 

If your condition is uncontrolled can lead to decreased quality of life, attacks or flare-ups (which can resemble a severe chest infection or even be more sudden), and rarely fatalities if left untreated or treated incorrectly. 

In order to live life with few or no symptoms, the experts say it’s incredibly important to remain up to date with evidence based information and how to effectively manage it.

Ireland has one of the highest prevalence rates of the disease in the world, but with the correct medication, education and lifestyle strategies, most people with it should be able to live with few/infrequent symptoms and little disruption to their daily lives. 

It’s also incredibly important to know if your condition is uncontrolled.

Some indicators of this include:

  • Your daily activity is regularly limited
  • Your sleep is disrupted once a week or more
  • You experience shortness of breath more than twice a week
  • You need your rescue inhaler twice a week or more (excluding before exercise)
  • You’ve had two or more attacks/flare-ups in one year, requiring steroid tablets

If you are worried about your own condition or a loved one’s, you should speak to your GP and seek a review. 

A full medical review will assess a patient’s lifestyle, medication and dosage, any concerns about staying on medication, inhaler technique, symptom triggers (e.g. stress, mould, pollen, viruses, exercise, etc.), lung function and social circumstances. 


Your doctor may even review the accuracy of the diagnosis itself or recommend additional tests to support optimal treatment. 

Patients should always leave a review with a revised and personalised Action Plan, which can be downloaded here and filled in with the help of a doctor or nurse.

“Knowledge is power when it comes to managing asthma effectively,” said Eilis Ní Chaithnía, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland. 

“Asthma is a complex disease that varies from person to person. It can have a detrimental impact on a person’s quality of life, their earning and learning potential, and on their mental health. With this campaign, we hope to empower individuals to take control of their health and lead full lives, symptom-free.”

This is a sentiment that Professor Marcus Butler, Consultant Respiratory Physician at St Vincent’s Hospital, echoes: “The findings released today suggest a high rate of uncontrolled asthma in the Irish population. Frequent symptoms and more serious flare-ups of asthma, also known as asthma attacks, are a clear sign that your lungs are inflamed and you need an asthma review. 

“Equally, waking at night with your asthma should be a prompt to seek help. Your medications may need to be revised or you may need additional support to identify and manage your asthma symptoms and triggers. 

“If you frequently need your rescue inhaler or steroid tablets to relieve flares, it means that your asthma is uncontrolled, putting you at risk and can sometimes permanently harm how your lungs function.”

Ms. Ní Chaithnía continued: “The Asthma Society has compiled a range of resources the website to help you assess your asthma, and information about your disease and medications. 

“If you need additional help with managing asthma, our free Adviceline and WhatsApp messaging services are delivered by the expert nurses who can answer your questions.”

The Asthma Society of Ireland also provides a range of support services and resources to help people manage their asthma in between consultations with healthcare providers, which can be accessed via the website.