Asthma - TerryWhite Chemmart


One in nine people in Australia have asthma and it affects people of all ages. People with asthma have sensitive airways to their lungs, which react to triggers that set off their asthma; this makes it harder for them to breathe. (Source: Asthma Australia). Over two million Australians live with asthma.


Asthma is a long-term lung condition. People with asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs which react to triggers, causing a ‘flare-up’. In a flare-up, the muscles around the airway squeeze tight, the airways swell and become narrow and there is more mucus. These things make it harder to breathe.

An asthma flare-up can come on slowly (over hours, days or even weeks) or very quickly (over minutes). A sudden or severe asthma flare-up is sometimes called an asthma attack.

Asthma cannot be cured, but for most people it can be well controlled by following a daily management plan.


Everyone’s asthma is different, and everyone has different triggers. For most people with asthma, triggers are only a problem when their asthma is not well-controlled with medicine.

There are lots of different triggers, and they might be something that you:

  • catch (cold or flu);
  • breathe in (cold air, humidity, allergens, irritants, smoke);
  • feel (strong emotions, reflux);
  • do (exercise/physical activity);
  • eat/drink/take (foods/additives, medication, alternative therapies); or
  • use (latex)

A person’s asthma symptoms can vary over time – sometimes they will have no symptoms, especially when their asthma is well-controlled.

Symptoms often vary from person to person, but they are most commonly:

  • breathlessness
  • wheezing
  • tight feeling in the chest
  • continuing cough

Symptoms often occur at night, early in the morning or during/just after activity. They are caused by the narrowing of the airways.

If your asthma is well controlled, you should only have occasional asthma symptoms. We recommend you speak to your GP or TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist if you are unsure whether you have asthma.

The key way asthma is managed is with inhaled medicines:

Preventers – Preventers work to reduce the inflammation in the airways, which reduces the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms and the risk of future flare-ups.

Relievers – Blue/grey relievers provide short-term relief of asthma symptoms by relaxing tightened airway muscles. They do not treat the underlying problem of airway inflammation and excess mucus production. If you are using your blue/grey reliever more than 2 days a week it may mean your asthma is not under good control.


If you answer yes to any of the below, you should see your doctor as soon as possible and speak to your pharmacist.

  1. If you are coughing, wheezing or breathless – day or night
  2. If you struggle to keep up with normal activity
  3. If you need to use your blue/grey reliever puffer more than 2 days per week
  4. If you are unsure about the way your medications and devices can work best for you
  5. If you are using any other medications or complementary therapies


In case of emergency

You should call 000 prior to starting asthma first aid if the person is experiencing severe to life-threatening symptoms:


  • Obvious difficulty breathing
  • Cannot speak a full sentence in one breath
  • Tugging in of the skin between ribs or at base of neck
  • May have cough or wheeze
  • Reliever medication not lasting as long as usual


  • Gasping for breath
  • Unable to speak or 1-2 words per breath
  • Confused or exhausted
  • Turning blue
  • Collapsing
  • May no longer have wheeze or cough
  • Not responding to reliever medication

Conducting asthma first aid

After you’ve contacted 000 or if they’re only showing mild to moderate symptoms such as:

  • Minor difficulty breathing
  • Able to talk in full sentences
  • Able to walk/move around
  • May have a cough or wheeze

You can begin the 4 steps of asthma first aid.


The first few weeks back to school can be a tricky time for children with asthma and Asthma Australia reports that emergency departments experience an increase in children attending due to asthma at the start of each school year.

This spike occurs in both pre-school and school-aged children due to many different factors, including:

    • When children’s asthma is well-controlled in summer, sometimes preventer medicines are not taken daily as prescribed.
    • Children mix with others and there is an inevitable spreading of viruses.

If your child has asthma, it is important that you provide your child’s school with an up to date Asthma Care Plan from your Doctor. This will assist in managing your child’s asthma in the event of a flare up. Listed below is our Asthma School Checklist to help you ensure your child’s asthma is managed at school.


  1. Download the Asthma Care Plan for schools
  2. Book an appointment with your GP to complete and discuss your child’s Asthma Care Plan.
  3. Visit TerryWhite Chemmart to:
    1. Ask your pharmacist to check your child’s inhaler technique
    2. Download the TerryWhite Chemmart Health App to help you manage your child’s asthma prescriptions and medication
    3. Make sure you have a second spacer and medication to leave at school
  4. Take your Asthma Care Plan, spacer and asthma medication (that are both clearly labelled) to the school office or teacher
  5. Talk to your child’s teacher and/or school nurse about your child’s asthma so they have an understanding of their asthma needs and triggers.


It’s back to school time and a peak season for asthma. Make sure your child’s Asthma Plan is TOP OF YOUR TO-DO LIST.

Our pharmacists can provide advice and support to better manage your child’s asthma. They’ll also help you comply with school requirements to ensure your medication and spacer are clearly labelled with your child’s name.

Speak with one of our pharmacists today and receive a BONUS spacer label and bag tag.


It is very common for people to use their asthma devices incorrectly which can increase the risk of side effects and reduce the effectiveness as less medication reaches the lungs. Even if you think you are using your asthma medication correctly, it is important to have your technique checked regularly. Ask your pharmacist to check your technique at your next visit.


How does the influenza virus relate to asthma?

The influenza virus accounts for only a small percentage of asthma exacerbations, while the common cold virus contributes around 80% of reported exacerbations.

However, people with asthma who contract influenza are at higher risk than the general population of developing complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and ear infections, of time lost from work and school, of being hospitalised (especially among children younger than two, and the elderly), and of dying (especially among the elderly).

Who should be vaccinated?

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends vaccination if you have any chronic health condition, if you are a healthcare provider or if you would like to reduce the risk of becoming unwell with the flu.

You should especially consider getting a flu vaccination if you have severe persistent asthma.

Will it affect my asthma?

If you have asthma, the risk of it getting worse immediately following vaccination is very low. Whilst it is recommended, the vaccination itself has not been shown to protect you against worsening asthma.

Should I be more concerned about swine flu if I have asthma?

Whilst H1N1 09 or swine flu as it has become known, has to date produced mild symptoms in most people, it is now recognized that there is an increased risk of complications in those with underlying respiratory conditions, including asthma. So, if you do have asthma and develop flu-type symptoms this winter it is very important to talk to your doctor.

Remember, you can take some simple measures to reduce your risk of contracting this flu and any other viral illnesses this winter

  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough to prevent the virus being transmitted through the air
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, and before preparing food
  • Don’t share personal items if someone in your household has flu-like symptoms
  • Clean surfaces regularly, especially if someone has a viral illness
  • Avoid close contact with others if you are unwell with flu.

Don’t forget to keep your asthma action plan up to date too, to help you recognise and treat any worsening asthma symptoms.

Interested in getting a flu vaccination?


1. How can I prevent an asthma attack?
  • Know what triggers your asthma and try to avoid exposure to these triggers
  • Take your asthma medication as instructed
  • Make sure you are using your inhaler (puffer) properly
  • Get annual flu shots
  • Follow your personal written asthma plan from your GP
2. What to do in an asthma attack

Begin the 4 steps of Asthma first aid

3. What should I do if my child is having an asthma attack?

If the child has no asthma action plan but has an inhaler:

  • Sit child upright comfortably and loosen tight clothing.
  • Give one puff of quick-relief medicine from child’s inhaler, always with a spacer.
  • Ask child to take four breaths from spacer.
  • Give three more puffs, with four breaths between each.
  • Wait four minutes.
  • Prepare to call 000 if the symptoms worsen.
4. How to properly use an asthma puffer

Medicine for asthma is most commonly taken through an inhaler, which gets the medicine straight into your lungs where it is needed. There are lots of different inhalers and it is very important that you know how to use yours properly. Up to 90% of people are thought to use their inhalers incorrectly, which means the dose of medicine isn’t getting into the lungs. Use of a spacer is strongly recommended as it can help the medication reach deep into the lungs.

5. Can asthma just develop?

Asthma can start at any age and can be more of a problem when it starts in older adults, so don’t assume if you never had it as a child that it’s not possible now.

6. What are the symptoms of asthma?

A person’s asthma symptoms can vary over time – sometimes they will have no symptoms, especially when their asthma is well-controlled. Symptoms often vary from person to person, but they are most commonly:

  • breathlessness
  • wheezing
  • tight feeling in the chest
  • continuing cough

Symptoms often occur at night, early in the morning or during/just after activity. They are caused by the narrowing of the airways.

If your asthma is well controlled, you should only have occasional asthma symptoms.

TerryWhite Chemmart partnered with Asthma Australia

With like-minded visions and values, TerryWhite Chemmart has developed a partnership with Asthma Australia to focus on delivering better health outcomes for Australians.

Asthma Australia and the Asthma Foundations have been the leaders in asthma health care and research for over 50 years, delivering high-quality support to people with asthma and their carers. As one of the country’s largest and most respected respiratory organisations, Asthma Australia delivers evidence-based preventative health strategies to over 200,000 people every year.