This World Asthma Day, Asthma Society warns persistent symptoms are not “normal” and may be serious, even life-threatening

07 May 2024
  • Over half (51%) of the 1,205 people surveyed revealed they or their child had had an asthma attack in the last year, and nearly one quarter (24%) had an attack in the previous month.
  • Almost one-quarter (24%) of adults and children have used their reliever/rescue inhaler at least once daily, which is concerning as it is a sign that untreated/undertreated asthma symptoms are occurring.
  • 43% of people surveyed had taken steroid tablets at least twice for asthma in the past year, with one-fifth (20%) having taken them more than three times. This is a more serious sign of uncontrolled asthma (controlled means hardly any symptoms ever).
  • 74% said they or their child’s sleep had been disturbed by asthma in the past year, which can be a signifier that their condition is not controlled.*

The Asthma Society is today warning that persistent symptoms should not be considered an inevitable part of life with asthma and, in fact, may indicate a serious risk to health or life.

81 asthma deaths were registered in Ireland 2022, an average of one person dying every five days. Despite the detrimental and potentially fatal effects of uncontrolled asthma, many people are living with worrying signs that indicate their asthma may be uncontrolled. Uncontrolled asthma can lead to decreased quality of life, asthma attacks/flare-ups (which can resemble a severe chest infection or even be more sudden), and rarely fatalities if left untreated or treated incorrectly. To be able to live a life with few or no asthma symptoms, people need to be empowered with up-to-date, evidence-based information about their disease and how to manage it.

In a bid to empower people with asthma and their families to recognise when to seek medical help, this Asthma Awareness Week (6th – 12th May), the Asthma Society of Ireland is launching an awareness campaign to highlight the signs of uncontrolled asthma. The initiative is part of the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) World Asthma Day ‘Asthma Education Empowers’ campaign.

Approximately one in every ten people in Ireland has asthma, one of the highest prevalence rates of the disease in the world. With the correct medication, education and lifestyle strategies, however, most people with asthma should be able to live with few/infrequent symptoms and little disruption to their daily lives. Yet, the findings of the Asthma Society’s recent survey of 1,205 people with asthma (or parents of children with asthma) indicate an alarming rate of features that warrant an immediate medical review.

Your asthma may be uncontrolled if:

  • Your daily activity is regularly limited by your asthma
  • Your sleep is disrupted by your asthma once a week or more
  • You experience shortness of breath more than twice a week
  • You need your rescue inhaler twice a week or more (excluding before exercise)
  • You’ve had two or more asthma attacks/flare-ups in one year, requiring steroid tablets

If people are worried about their own or their loved one’s asthma, they should speak to their GP and seek an asthma review. A full medical review will assess the patient’s lifestyle, medication and dosage, any concerns about staying on medication, inhaler technique, symptom triggers (e.g. stress, mould, pollen, viruses, exercise, etc.), lung function and social circumstances. Their doctor may even review the accuracy of the diagnosis itself or recommend additional tests to support optimal treatment. Patients should always leave an asthma review with a revised and personalised Asthma Action Plan, which can be downloaded from and filled in with the help of a doctor or nurse.

As part of the Asthma Society’s campaign to empower through education, the organisation is disseminating Asthma Awareness Week packs through the HSE’s integrated respiratory hubs for clinicians hosting awareness events in their local areas. By working closely with a medical professional, people with asthma can adopt comprehensive strategies to control their symptoms, reduce the risk of exacerbations, and improve their overall quality of life.

"Knowledge is power when it comes to managing asthma effectively," said Eilis Ní Chaithnía, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland. “Asthma is a complex disease that varies from person to person. It can have a detrimental impact on a person’s quality of life, their earning and learning potential, and on their mental health. With this campaign, we hope to empower individuals to take control of their health and lead full lives, symptom-free.”

This is a sentiment that Professor Marcus Butler, Consultant Respiratory Physician at St Vincent's Hospital and Medical Director of the Asthma Society, echoes:

The findings released today suggest a high rate of uncontrolled asthma in the Irish population. Frequent symptoms and more serious flare-ups of asthma, also known as asthma attacks, are a clear sign that your lungs are inflamed and you need an asthma review. Equally, waking at night with your asthma should be a prompt to seek help. Your medications may need to be revised or you may need additional support to identify and manage your asthma symptoms and triggers. If you frequently need your rescue inhaler or steroid tablets to relieve asthma flares, it means that your asthma is uncontrolled, putting you at risk and can sometimes permanently harm how your lungs function.”

“Asthma is a chronic condition, and there is no room for complacency—managing asthma requires a combined effort, and we, as healthcare professionals, have an important role to play in sharing the care of this condition with you yourself. This is why education by and for healthcare professionals is crucial—we need to keep up to date with the latest clinical guidelines and ensure our patients have the required support, information, and treatment.”

Ms. Ní Chaithnía continued, “The Asthma Society has compiled a range of resources on to help you assess your asthma, and information about your disease and medications. If you need additional help with managing asthma, our free Asthma Adviceline and WhatsApp messaging services are delivered by the expert nurses who can answer your questions.”


*In March 2024, the Asthma Society of Ireland surveyed 1,205 people living with (or having a child living with) asthma in Ireland.

Photo: Professor Marcus Butler, Consultant Respiratory Physician at St Vincent's Hospital and Medical Director of the Asthma Society and Edel Abberton, Asthma Ambassador were pictured today on World Asthma Day, for the release of the Asthma Society’s new survey of over 1,200 people which shows a number of concerning findings.