A Whangarei mother of two children who both have asthma is calling on families affected by the respiratory illness to seek help from the Northland Asthma Society rather than just relying on hospitals and GPs.
With Asthma Awareness Week this week and Balloon Day tomorrow, Tanya Stuchbery has urged asthma sufferers to utilise free and non-referral services offered by the society, based on Central Ave in Whangarei.
She and her daughters have had their asthma under control for the past 18 months after Ms Stuchbery popped into the society office.
Ms Stuchbery suffers from allergy-induced asthma which she believes started from smoking but is managing it through diet, medication and a change in lifestyle.
Her eldest daughter, Luca Reo, 7, has mild asthma which flares up when she has a cold while her younger child, Charli Reo, 5, was born with environmental and food allergies which result in chronic asthma and anaphylaxis - exaggerated allergic reaction to a foreign protein resulting from previous exposure to it - because she carried her mother's genetics.
The child relied on breastmilk, would not sleep, and was diagnosed with asthma at 10 months.
Their condition improved markedly, she said, after the society began liaising with doctors and a pediatrician at Whangarei Hospital on how best to manage their asthma.
"When I went to the asthma society, for the first time someone said you don't have to put up with this, that my daughter should be able to sleep, go to kindy, and do other things that normal children do," Ms Stuchbery said. "We've got this amazing facility in Whangarei which is untapped, despite there being possibly hundreds and thousands of children in Northland suffering from asthma."
Whangarei, she said, was one of the worst places in New Zealand for asthma sufferers because of long pollen season, cold and damp weather and sub-standard houses.
Otago University statistics for 2011 confirmed that Northland District Health Board had 200 people per 100,000 admitted to hospital for asthma, 13th out of the 20 DHBs reviewed.
Ministry of Health estimates that treating a person in hospital for asthma costs over $1200 per day, and that the majority of asthma attacks and hospital admissions could be prevented using existing treatments. The Society said it worked extremely hard at reducing the hospital admissions by providing free services to the community.