GPs urged to test all asthma patients for allergies to reduce attacks

GPs should conduct more allergy tests on asthma patients to help reduce the risk of fatal asthma attacks, a charity has said.

Asthma: GPs are urged to give more patients allergy tests (Photo: JH Lancy)
Asthma: GPs are urged to give more patients allergy tests (Photo: JH Lancy)

A survey by the charity Allergy UK found three-quarters of all asthma sufferers may be 'at risk of fatal attacks' due to unidentified allergen triggers.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of asthma patients questioned had never received an allergy test and most were unaware of how serious or uncontrolled their condition was, the survey showed.

The survey, funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK, found 78% of asthma sufferers who think their asthma is mild or moderate use up to four reliever asthma inhalers a month. Patients shouldn’t even need to use one per month if their disease is well-controlled, the charity said.

As many as 60% of asthma attacks are induced by allergens including house dust mites, pollen, animal dander, mould and foods. A drive to give more patients allergy tests would make patients aware of their triggers and could help reduce the rate of asthma attacks, the charity said.

Patients 'unaware' of asthma severity

‘Mild intermittent’ asthma is classed as having symptoms less than once a week, without affecting sleep. Sufferers are able to carry out normal everyday activities with normal lung function. Anything more severe is classed as uncontrolled asthma.

This means many patients are at risk of a 'life-threatening asthma attack when they think their condition is under control', the charity warned. Each day, around three people die from asthma in the UK.

Dr Monica Nordstrom, a respiratory physician at Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘It’s important for doctors and nurses to be informed about patient-specific allergic triggers for asthma and to make the link between a patient’s asthma and allergy. This can help to avoid long delays in getting appropriate treatment.’

The charity also advised doctors to ensure patients undergo yearly asthma reviews for the condition, after it was revealed that a fifth had not attended one in the last 12 months. ‘This is the only way to ensure that the asthma crisis doesn’t worsen,’ it said.

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