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Asthma guidelines update


An update to the BTS/SIGN asthma guidelines recommends better education about self-management and a different approach to prescribing steroids.
The guidance from the British Thoracic Society (BTS) and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) was first published last year as good practice for nurses and doctors in GP surgeries and hospitals.

The updated guidelines recommend:

  • The use of inhaled steroids in treating milder cases of asthma

  • Improved information and education tailored towards the individual needs of people with asthma

  • Increased use of asthma action plans that give specific advice on recognising a deterioration in symptoms and what steps to take should this happen

  • Patients who have been admitted to hospital with severe asthma symptoms should be given an asthma action plan before they are discharged

  • People who have attended hospital with asthma should have had a follow-up appointment made for them within the next 30 days by the time they leave

The updated guideline is published in Thorax 2003;Vol58;Supplement 1 and can also be downloaded from

Asthma attack card

The charity Asthma UK (formerly known as the National Asthma Campaign) has launched an Asthma Attack Card to help prevent unnecessary deaths.

The card provides basic information on how to recognise an asthma attack and what steps to take. People can indicate on the card what their commonest signs of an attack are and also add their own contact details and the telephone number of a medical contact.

The card is also useful for people who care for children with asthma, such as teachers and day carers, who can add the details of that child and their parents.

The card has been launched following publication of a new report from Asthma UK which claims over half a million people with asthma are living inconstant fear that they next attack they have will be fatal. The report, called ‘Living on the Knife Edge’, says one in six of the 2.6 million people with severe asthma report that they have weekly attacks so severe that they cannot even speak to ask for help. It argues that one person dies every seven hours from asthma in the UK but that experts believe that 90% of these deaths are preventable.

Asthma UK claims that approximately 500,000 of these people are experiencing severe asthma symptoms because the treatments that are currently available do not effectively manage their asthma.

To get a free asthma attack card contact Asthma UK's Supporter & Information Team (020 7704 5888; ).

The report ‘Living on the Knife Edge’ can be downloaded from