Asthma and how to live with it

The World Health Organisation estimates that 235 million people around the world suffer from asthma. It is a problem that occurs in all countries, regardless of the level of development. Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children so for expatriates with families, it is a concern that should be considered, especially as on-going treatment costs can be significant. Most expatriates are away for a number of years and during this time, many are likely to have a growing family who will face all kinds of challenges as they get older. International private medical insurance is designed to cover the most common healthcare costs such as vaccinations and treatments for emergencies, but some policies will also cover the medical cost of a chronic or long term condition, providing this was not evident when the policy was taken out.

Policies can last for as little as 9 months, but most are for 12 months and will cover you wherever you are based, so is ideal for the expat worker wanting to protect his or her family. Asthma is a chronic disease of the bronchial, the airways leading to and from the lungs. From time to time the airways constrict in people who have asthma. It is characterised by attacks of breathlessness, chest tightness and wheezing. Symptoms can range from the mild to the severe and can cause sleeplessness, fatigue and absenteeism from school and work. It has a relatively low fatality rate but is unpleasant for the person suffering the attack. The causes of asthma are not fully understood but the strongest risk factors are inhaled particles that provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways. Triggers can be cold air, anger or fear and exercise.

Asthma cannot be cured although careful management can control the disease which allows sufferers to have a good quality of life. With nearly 30 years’ experience of supporting the international business community worldwide, April International UK is a major provider of health insurance for expats across the world. CEO Debbie Purser comments, “Many expatriates think that their international private health insurance will only cover them for an initial diagnosis and a first round of treatment when they fall ill, but at April International UK, we have always sought to go one step further and offer clients the reassurance that however long the illness, they will be covered under our policies for the cost of treatment.”

Symptoms can be relieved with short term medications. Those with persistent symptoms should take long term medication daily. It is also important to avoid triggers and good medical support can help patients with what they should avoid. Most people with asthma are treated with inhalers which deliver a small dose of drug to the airways. Different inhalers suit different people and doctors will advise on the different types. In some cases, tablets may be prescribed. Your doctor or nurse will also prepare an action plan tailored to your individual circumstances; these plans help the asthma sufferer to manage their symptoms and to lead normal lives. There is no simple cure for asthma but about half the children with asthma grow out of it while adults have good spells as well as not so good spells. Debbie purser continued: “The costs of treating long term or chronic illnesses can and do mount up and are not just limited to the medication prescribed. In the case of asthma, there could be a requirement for X-rays, tests to measure the sensitivity of your airways, lung function tests, allergy testing and other investigations to rule in our out similar conditions such as reflux disease. The costs of such investigations can quickly run into the thousands of pounds, so something as apparently trivial as breathing difficulties can have significant implications and should always be fully checked out by a specialist.