Statement: winter can wreak havoc on people with asthma

Today, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that there were an estimated 50,100 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2017/18 - the highest recorded since winter 1975/76. More than a third (34.7%) of all excess winter deaths were caused by respiratory diseases.

Colette Harris, Deputy Director of Health Advice at Asthma UK says:

“Winter can wreak havoc on people with respiratory conditions, like the 5.4 million people in the UK who have asthma.

“Cold air from plunging temperatures and flu are the top causes of asthma symptoms and we estimate flu could put 4 million people with asthma at risk of a life-threatening asthma attack this winter.*

“Unfortunately, people worry about the flu vaccine not working, causing side effects or causing flu, and our research shows this is preventing people from getting it.

“But the flu strain changes annually, so to improve protection against flu, the vaccine is updated every year. It's still the best way people with asthma can avoid a life-threatening asthma attack if flu is one of their triggers. We also advise people with asthma to take their preventer inhaler, which is usually brown, every day.

“This builds up protection over time so that even if people come into contact with an asthma trigger, they are less likely to have an asthma attack. For information on how the flu vaccine can help people with asthma visit”


For further information, please contact:

Catherine Jones, Head of Media, Asthma UK,, 07912875936

Notes to Editors:

*Falling Through the Gaps: Why more people need basic asthma care included a survey of 7,611 people with asthma across the UK. To estimate that more than 4 million in the UK with asthma are at risk this winter, we applied the proportion of people in the survey who said that cold and flu viruses triggers their asthma (81%) to the UK asthma population which is 5.4 million.


** ** A YouGov survey of 1,010 adults with an asthma diagnosis in the UK found (23%) were not planning to get the flu vaccine. A third of people with asthma (31%) said they weren’t going to have the flu vaccine because they were worried about the side effects and a similar proportion (27%) were sceptical about whether it would work. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Fieldwork was undertaken between 7th - 9th September 2018.  The survey was carried out online.


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About Asthma UK:

  • In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Every day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.
  • Every ten seconds someone in the UK has an asthma attack.
  • Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack.
  • The Asthma UK Helpline is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 0300 222 5800.
  • For more information about asthma please visit