Is it True That Wealthier Children are More Likely to Die from Asthma?

Is it True That Wealthier Children are More Likely to Die from Asthma?

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A recent study has found that wealthier children & adults are more likely to die from asthma. We explore why lifestyle choices are exacerbating brittle asthma symptoms.

Researchers from St George’s, University of London and the University of Edinburgh believe there is a direct correlation between affluence and deaths from asthma. 

A new study suggests that the least wealthy patients are 19% less likely to die from the lung condition than the richest patients.

We know what you’re thinking. How can this be? With most other medical conditions, being worse off has traditionally been linked to ill-health. However, this new research, published in the journal Thorax, indicates that asthma mortality among young children and young adults in England was more prevalent in wealthier parts of the country.

In England alone, some 14,830 recorded deaths were linked to asthma between 2002 and 2015, almost a tenth of which (1,400) were children and adults aged five to 44. Furthermore, over half-a-million patients aged five and over were admitted to hospital with emergency asthma symptoms between 2001 and 2011.

Following close analysis of the data by the study’s researchers, they discovered an “unusual and unexpected pattern” where asthma mortality in people aged five to 44 was more common in affluent neighborhoods.

The researchers used asthma deaths in England between 2002 and 2015 obtained from national deaths registers, as well as admissions obtained from the Hospital Episode Statistics for England 2001-2011. They combined this data with incidence rate ratios based on age, gender and, wherever possible, if an individual smoked.

While families from poorer backgrounds tend to suffer from worse asthma symptoms and are more likely to be admitted to hospital for treatment, they are more likely to survive than wealthier individuals before the age of 45. 

On the flip side, wealthier families are more susceptible to what researchers term a “brittle” form of asthma, which rapidly turns fatal after appearing to be under control for some time.

Previous studies have appeared to indicate that wealthier individuals were more susceptible to allergies and skin conditions such as eczema, with one of the researchers, Ramyani Gupta, also suggest a direct 

“association between food allergies/allergic sensitization and brittle asthma”.

What you need to know about brittle asthma

Historically, brittle asthma tends to be more common females than males. Brittle asthmatics experience symptoms at both ends of the asthma spectrum. Sometimes their peak flow will be comfortable, but at other times it can be chaotic, causing severe irregularities day or night.

The cause of brittle asthma is still not known. Some suggest it is due to direct exposure to dust mites or certain breeds of animal, or even due to eating food that is unwittingly harmful to an individual.

How to diagnose symptoms of brittle asthma

  • Brittle asthma could be developing if someone feels fine one minute, after nebulising regularly, but then experiences an immediate onset of severe asthma. Often, these brittle asthma attacks will leave someone gasping for air in a state of shock.
  • If someone is experiencing irregular peak flow patterns, day or night, this could also be an indication of brittle asthma developing.

It’s important to note that brittle asthma doesn’t just strike older people, it can affect younger people too. Teenagers have even been known to develop brittle asthma, so it’s important to keep a close eye on their asthma symptoms over time.

The rising trend of asthma deaths in the UK

Deaths caused by asthma have soared by over 20% in the last four years, with the NHS seemingly concerned about a feeling of complacency about the condition among Britons. This complacency has resulted in the UK having one of the highest rates of asthma mortality throughout Europe.

Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy, Asthma UK, said: “It is concerning and unexpected that younger people in England who are wealthy have a higher risk of dying from the condition than those who are poor.

“More research needs to be done to fully understand the relationship between someone’s socioeconomic status and how their asthma might affect them”.

In the West Midlands, asthma sufferers are 35% more likely to die from their condition than any other parts of the UK. As the figure is substantially higher than in other UK regions, it surely cannot be a coincidence. Is it due to air quality across the West Midlands? The region is brimming with light and heavy industry and some of the largest cities in the country, which may be contributing to the air pollution that West Midlands residents breathe.

Are lifestyle choices causing brittle asthma symptoms among the wealthy?

It is quite possible that as we earn more money in life, we make more lifestyle decisions that are bad for our bodies. With more disposable income, people are more inclined to smoke more, consume more alcohol and eat unhealthy foods and takeaways. Furthermore, the busier we become at work, the less inclined we’re likely to be to want to exercise and keep our bodies fit and energized.

Just by making a few simple lifestyle choices we can lead healthier lives and reduce the risk of developing asthma or encouraging asthma symptoms to worsen:

  • Quit smoking and steer clear of cigarette smoke as a rule
    Smoking is the single most important factor in increasing asthma symptoms. Tobacco smoke can trigger symptoms and even exacerbate symptoms, so it’s important to give up smoking, don’t allow smoke at home or in confined spaces such as your car and don’t expose your children to cigarette smoke either.
  • Lose excess weight to ease the strain on your rib cage and lungs
    It goes without saying that a few extra pounds can place undue strain on the rib cage and lungs, making it harder for asthmatics to breathe comfortably. By making a conscious effort to lose weight you’ll give your body the best possible chance of minimizing its asthma symptoms.
  • Enhance your aerobic capacity with regular exercise
    According to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, regular exercise improves lung function and aerobic capacity, helping to reduce regular asthma symptoms. If in doubt, talk with your GP or asthma nurse for advice on developing an exercise program tailored to your asthma. When you do exercise, be sure to exercise indoors when outdoor asthma triggers such as high ozone or pollen levels are prevalent.
  • Control your everyday stress
    Keeping a lid on your day-to-day stress levels is important to keep severe asthma attacks at bay. Consider meditation and yoga classes to maintain a state of calm.

Above all, don’t just visit your doctor or asthma nurse when you’re experiencing severe asthma symptoms. Regular check-ups are essential to ensure your medications are managed properly.

The Safey Health Smart Inhaler is also a useful piece of hardware and software you can utilize to make asthma care management more efficient between you and your GP or asthma nurse. With the Smart Inhaler, they can monitor the quality of dosages you take remotely and track whether you need to improve your inhaler technique or require reminders to take your medication.

The Smart Inhaler is an innovative way of keeping your asthma under control, helping you to lead a normal, healthy life.