More than 1,400 adults and children died from asthma attacks in 2018, official figures show - the highest level for more than a decade. 

According to an analysis of Office for National Statistics mortality figures by charity Asthma UK, 2.5 deaths out of every 100,000 last year were due to asthma, including those of 20 children aged under 14. GP leaders claim more staff are needed in practices to allow doctors to spend more time with patients, while, following research linking some childhood asthmas to air pollution, NHS England said it couldn't solve the problem on its own.

Asthma is a condition affecting the airways, which carry air in and out of the lungs. According to Asthma UK, more than five million people in the UK live with asthma, including more than one million children, and the NHS spends around £1bn every year treating and caring for asthma patients. 

Asthma kills three people each day - including more than 12,700 in England and Wales in the past 10 years - but the charity says that many of these deaths are ‘needless’ and could be prevented with better basic care and inhaler checks. Chief executive Kay Boycott called the deaths ‘completely unacceptable’, adding that there remain tragic cases of lives being cut short. “This lack of action is costing lives and devastating families and communities," she said.

If you live with asthma, there are a number of ways you can help to manage your condition, including:

  • making sure you take prescribed medication
  • writing a plan with the help of your GP or asthma nurse, and following it
  • having an annual review with your GP or nurse 
  • recognising asthma triggers and learning to spot the signs, as attacks rarely come out of the blue
  • drinking lots of water in hot weather and planning outdoor activities for earlier in the day, when air quality tends to be better
  • wrapping a scarf around your mouth and nose in winter and cold weather
  • not smoking
  • phoning Asthma UK’s helpline on 0300 222 5800

You might also want to consider taking out private medical insurance after reading Asthma UK’s advice on health insurance for asthma. With benefits including shorter waiting times to see an expert, the chance to get a second opinion and mental health support to cope with a diagnosis or anxiety about your asthma, you might decide it’s a worthwhile investment for yourself or a family member with asthma.