Media Releases

Winter’s here and so is asthma - pharmacists urged to check patients

11 Jul 2017

With the cold and flu season kicking in, the National Asthma Council Australia is reminding pharmacists to check that their patients are winter asthma ready.

Around 40,000 Australians are hospitalised and 400 die each year from asthma, with a spike in hospital admissions during winter for people of all ages – from preschoolers through to the elderly.

National Asthma Council Australia Director and pharmacist, Stephen Hughes, said that a pro-active approach to managing asthma was the most effective for the estimated 2.5 million Australians with the condition.

“During winter, respiratory tract infections typically increase, and the common cold is behind 4 out of 5 bad asthma flare-ups or attacks. 

“Pharmacists can identify and assist people with asthma who wouldn't otherwise go to their doctors or have forgotten what actions to take, for instance, the Australian Asthma Handbook (national guidelines for asthma management) recommends an annual flu vaccination for people with asthma, especially those over 65 years.

“Providing ‘flu reminders’ with asthma inhalers may be a way to prompt pharmacy staff when they are talking to people with asthma.”

Mr. Hughes said that winter provided extra ‘in-pharmacy’ opportunities for people with asthma to be addressing their inhaler technique and their Asthma Action Plan.

“It is not unreasonable for pharmacists to ask every patient how long it has been since they focused on their technique and how current is their Asthma Action Plan.”

The National Asthma Council Australia has recently expanded its online “How to” video library, with two new videos showing how to use the inhaler for the preventer flutiform* (fluticasone propionate/formoterol), with and without a spacer.  The flutiform inhaler is a metered-dose inhaler (pMDI) with dose counter.

Despite the increased asthma risk, there are steps your patients can take to keep themselves safe during the winter months. 

Here’s a winter asthma patient checklist for pharmacists from the National Asthma Council Australia:

  • Encourage your patients to see their doctor for an asthma check-up before they get a cold or a flu;
  • Check if their Asthma Action Plan is current and is being followed as this could help prevent a mild flare-up from turning into a serious one;
  • Suggest they have a flu vaccination at your pharmacy, if available, or at their GP’s practice;
  • Ask if they have been using their reliever puffer more than two days a week or are having asthma symptoms at night. These are important signs that their lungs may not be in the best condition for winter colds and flu;
  • If they have been prescribed a preventer medicine, they should be using it - even if they feel well; and  
  • Check if they’re using their puffer or inhaler device correctly, or suggest they view the “How-to” videos online.

Information and tools to help patients manage their asthma, including the “How-to” videos, are available at the National Asthma Council Australia website:

*Development of the flutiform How-To videos was supported by an untied educational grant from Mundipharma.

Media enquiries

For further information, or to arrange an interview with a National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson, please contact: 

Lelde McCoy
The Reputation Group
Tel: 03 96457755        
Mob: 0417362768
Email: [email protected]