Tuesday May 7 is World Asthma Day. World Asthma Day is held annually on the first Tuesday in May and is designed to improve asthma awareness and care globally.

Asthma is a chronic condition of the bronchioles — the small airways inside the lungs. The airways in a person with asthma are oversensitive and are easily irritated. The irritation causes the inside of the airway to become red and inflamed and the muscles surrounding the airway walls tighten. These two processes narrow the airway passages, making breathing very difficult at times.

New Zealand has one of the world’s highest asthma rates with asthma and respiratory diseases being two of the leading causes of sickness and death in New Zealand. 1 in 6 New Zealanders have a respiratory disease and it is the 3rd most common cause of death.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a term for the diseases emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma. COPD is the fourth top cause of death with 15% of New Zealanders aged over 45 having COPD. Most cases of COPD are linked to smoking, however this can also be caused from breathing in chemical fumes, dust and toxic substances while carrying out work.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ has lots of great resources for asthma patients and carers on their website here.