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Allergy Today: World Asthma Day

Allergy New Zealand shares our head office in Auckland with Asthma NZ. We enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship as we share a number of common health and education goals. Research evidence of the trigger link between allergies and asthma is enduring, as is our work together.
ATe Article 2 - Asthma NZ - Darth Vader image-606

CEO Katheren Leitner and her team are dedicated educators and health service professionals, and we are fortunate to enjoy ready access to their expertise. Today, we’re re-publishing their recent article about World Asthma Day (held on 4 May), outlining their goals for their patients, many of whom also suffer from allergies.

"Tuesday May 4th was World Asthma Day. It is also, as all fans will know - ‘Star Wars Day’ with the phrase “May the Fourth (FORCE) be with you”. At first glance, it’s hard to imagine how the two could be linked but imagine the raspy sound of Darth Vader’s breathing.

Shockingly, the sound is very similar to an asthmatic wheeze. Asthma New Zealand is using the similarity to build awareness around healthy breathing sounds - and what we should be listening for in ourselves and others to help manage asthma better. 

“Darth Vader’s familiar sound is actually very much like an ashmatic wheeze and is something Kiwis should be looking out for,” says Asthma New Zealand CEO Katheren Leitner. “By knowing what to look out for - in ourselves and others - we can better manage the health of Kiwis and reduce unnecessary hospitalisation. We are passionate about Kiwis living with asthma, rather than suffering from it.”

It is estimated that more than 71 per cent of people with asthma have poorly managed asthma. (Best Practice Journal for Primary Care).
Katheren believes there is an increased interest in breathing techniques, with the likes of Buteyko and the Wim Hof philosophy becoming part of the training regime for many professional athletes. “There is a lot we can achieve, simply by considering the way that we breathe - ask any young person what they should do if they are feeling stressed and they will tell you: breathe”.

More than 700,000 kiwis live with asthma and respiratory illness, says Katheren. “The theme of World Asthma Day is misconceptions - and one of the key misconceptions is that patients must ‘suffer from asthma’. We think there are many simple things that Kiwis can do to reduce a feeling of “suffering” - there is no reason why those with asthma cannot do everything their non-asthmatic friends do when well managed.”

New Zealand has the second highest rate of asthma in the world. “Our goal at Asthma New Zealand is to have New Zealanders breathe easy - we’re on a mission to reduce hospitalisation by 50 per cent and our message to New Zealanders is to take our breathing seriously," says Katheren. “It impacts our ability to learn, to earn, to play and engage. Far too many people drop out of sport because of poorly-managed asthma. That in itself is a huge tragedy for Aotearoa as it changes the culture that is so quintessential to New Zealand.

“It worries me that not enough people understand the impact of poor breathing. Many would be shocked to know that a child who starts school with poorly managed asthma will be 60 per cent behind at the end of their first year.”
If someone you care for has asthma, and is not living well because of it, you can call 0800 227 328 to arrange for an Asthma NZ nurse to provide education and support to help them live well with asthma.

To mark World Asthma Day, Asthma New Zealand is launching a podcast series “Breathe Easy New Zealand” through which thought leaders and experts will share their knowledge around healthy breathing, episodes are available at from today."
Asthma New Zealand Facts :

  • Respiratory disease accounts for one in ten of all hospital stays in New Zealand.

  • One in eight adults and one in seven children take asthma medication in New Zealand.

  • More than 3000 children a year in New Zealand are admitted to hospital with asthma.

  • Maori, pacific and low-income families are 3x more likely to be hospitalised for asthma.

Allergy Today, May 2021