Scots 'twice as likely' to die from asthma attacks during winter

Hospital admissions for respiratory conditions in Scotland soared by 75% in winter compared to summer.

Scottish asthma sufferers ‘twice as likely to die from respiratory attacks in winter’, report finds iStock

Scots with asthma are more than twice as likely to die from the condition in winter than summer, according to official figures.

The National Records of Scotland report found that around 43% of respiratory deaths, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), occur between December and March.

People with asthma are particularly at risk, with an increase of 120% in the number of people dying from the condition in winter compared to summer. Roughly 368,000 people have asthma in Scotland, of which 72,000 are children.

Charity Asthma + Lung also revealed that hospital admissions for respiratory conditions in Scotland increased by over 75% (three quarters) in winter compared to summer, with two in five of yearly admissions occurring in the winter months.

Heather Raeburn, 50, a former midwife from Glasgow, has severe asthma and has been hospitalised every winter since her diagnosis in 2011.

She spent four weeks in hospital in 2015 due to the effect of influenza on her asthma.

She said: “Every winter for the last 11 years, I’ve ended up in hospital. I have all my vaccinations and try to avoid major triggers for my asthma like colds, viruses and cold weather.

“It’s hard to avoid bugs though especially if you have a family who are coming and going and socialising in the run up to Christmas.

“I only go to A&E when I know it’s serious and I need extra medication which I don’t have at home or can get on prescription.

“Usually when I’m in A&E they don’t let me go home until I’m stabilised, which then means a few days staying in hospital. I am really hoping this year will be different as I’m on new medication.”

Heather Raeburn has been hospitalised every winter since her diagnosis.

A survey by the charity revealed that 93% of people in Scotland with lung condition have already made significant changes to their lives in response to the cost of living crisis

One in three sufferers surveyed by the charity in Scotland say their health is worsening as they cut back on food and heating – with 135 saying they will turn off their heating altogether, 219 said they would heat their house less and 139 people said they would cut down on meals.

Heather is one of many sufferers forced to make cutbacks.

She said: “With the cost of living crisis I have been avoiding putting my heating on, but for my health, I have had to put the radiators on, which is a worry when the bills will come in.

“My concern is people don’t take asthma seriously enough. And my advice would be, if you have asthma and are concerned, speak to a health practitioner, don’t leave it too late if you know something isn’t right.”

Asthma + Lung UK Scotland is now raising awareness of how people with lung conditions can stay well this winter.

The advice includes keeping up to date with flu, Covid and pneumonia vaccines, taking their medications as prescribed, eating well and keeping themselves warm.

Joseph Carter, head of Asthma + Lung UK Scotland, said: “This winter is going to be hard on the people’s lungs, with higher rates of respiratory infections and many people struggling to stay well with colder homes and fewer food choices.

“It is vital that people with lung conditions take extra care particularly as the cost of living begins to bite and many people cut back on meals and warming their homes.

“We are calling on the Scottish Government to provide targeted financial support for those with lung conditions to ease the cost of living crisis and minimize NHS pressures this winter.

“We would also stress the importance of keeping warm and eating well. Ideally, you would want to be heating your home to 18C, keep warm by wearing layers of clothes, have lots of hot drinks and at eat at least one hot meal a day if you can.

“We also have lots of winter health tips on our website or people can ring our helpline on 0300 222 5800.”

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