Three million Brits could be at risk of a life-threatening asthma attacks this bonfire night, charity warns

People with asthma and other lung conditions should take extra care at Guy Fawkes celebrations over the next week to avoid life threatening asthma attacks and flare-ups, according to leading respiratory charity Asthma UK.

Around 3 million people with asthma could find smoke from bonfires or fireworks triggers their symptoms.1 The particles of smoke can irritate the airways, causing them to become inflamed and tighten. This results in coughing and wheezing and makes it very difficult for people to breathe.

With every asthma attack being life-threatening and around three people dying from an asthma attack every day,2 Asthma UK is warning people with asthma to be vigilant if they are going to a bonfire night this year.

The charity has top tips to help people with asthma including ensuring they take their preventer inhaler (usually brown) every day to build up protection in their airways over time so that if they do come into contact with smoke, they are less likely to have symptoms. People with asthma should stand well back from bonfires and make sure they have their reliever inhaler (usually blue) with them to relieve symptoms if they get them. They should also ensure their friends and family know what to do if they have an asthma attack and they can download a graphic from Asthma UK website with these tips.

Most recent figures for November (2018), shows that more than 7,600 people in the UK were admitted to hospital as an emergency with asthma.3 Last November, more than 1200 people contacted the charity’s helpline for advice and support.4 The charity says the number of asthma admissions are likely to be due result of cold weather, cold and flu and air pollution, such as that caused by bonfire night,as they are among the most common triggers for asthma attacks.

Kayleigh Robus, a community carer, 29, from Burgess Hill in West Sussex and a mum to Imogen, three, knows how dangerous bonfires can be as she almost died when smoke from a neighbour’s bonfire triggered an asthma attack.

She said: “I was playing in the garden with Imogen when suddenly I smelt smoke and straight away felt my chest tighten. I rushed inside the house and took puffs on my inhaler which helped at first but it wasn’t enough and I was struggling to breathe. I couldn’t breathe in or out, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t do anything. It was horrific.

“To my amazement, Imogen called 999 and told an ambulance where we lived and I was rushed to hospital, where doctors gave me a nebuliser and steroids to save my life. I spent five days in hospital before I could come home. It was such a terrifying experience and if it hadn’t been for Imogen, I would have died.

“The smoke from bonfires can be a very serious health risk for people like me which is why I am urging anyone with asthma to be extra careful over the next week, and to make sure everyone in their family, however young, knows exactly what to do in the event of an asthma attack.”

Jessica Kirby, Head of Health Advice at Asthma UK said: “Fireworks and bonfire displays might look pretty but if you have asthma triggered by smoke, they could land you in hospital.

“While many people will be looking forward to watching firework displays, the increased levels of smoke in the air can trigger asthma symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath or even an asthma attack.

“The good news is if people follow our top tips such as taking their preventer inhaler (usually brown) as prescribed, keeping their reliever inhaler (usually blue) with them and making sure their family and friends know what to do if they have an asthma attack, they shouldn’t have to miss out on festivities.”

Asthma UK has issued top tips for people with asthma on Bonfire Night:

  • Remember, remember…carry your reliever inhaler with you at all times.
  • Take your preventer medicines as prescribed.
  • If you find that smoke is making you cough, stand well back.
  • Make sure your friends and family know what to do and when to get help if your asthma symptoms suddenly get worse.
  • As cold air can be an asthma trigger, wrap a thin scarf loosely over your nose and mouth; this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in.