Asthma is a major problem for Whanganui kids, as a new report revealed last week.

The Massey University report shows our children have the third-highest rate of asthma hospitalisation in New Zealand.

The report found an increase of 45 per cent in the rates of Kiwi children hospitalised with asthma from 2002 (473 per 100,000) to 2016 (688 per 100,000).

According to the report authors, more than 6000 children under the age of 15 were hospitalised with asthma in 2016.


The report found Whanganui has the country's third-highest rate of child hospitalisation with asthma, with 960 children aged under 15 admitted per 100,000 — 40 per cent more than the NZ average of 688 per 100,000.

A report published by the University of Otago in March last year revealed that Whanganui had the highest number of asthma cases in New Zealand.

The report said asthma kills six people each year in the district and hospitalises more than 160.

Equally disturbing was that one in four Whanganui children suffer from asthma - way above the national average.

A leading expert from Otago University, Associate Professor Jim Reid, said urgent action is needed to address increasing rate of child hospitalisation due to asthma throughout Whanganui.

it is unclear why Whanganui children are so over-represented in asthma statistics, but some have speculated that the district's silver birch trees may be to blame.

Reid said Kiwis are too "casual" about asthma, which can have fatal outcomes.

More than one Kiwi dies every week from the disease.


Most asthma fatalities can be prevented by having the symptoms under control and using the Asthma Control Test to ensure the disease is being adequately managed, Reid said.

While many children grow out of asthma as they age, one in every nine adults is believed to be living with the disease.

New Zealand's high rates of asthma carries a significant cost burden - estimated to be more than $850 million annually, including the loss in productivity at work and the direct costs of medical treatment.

Reid says New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, with about 70 people dying from the disease each year.

Recent research shows the prevalence of asthma in New Zealand children is about 15% (compared with 23 per cent in Whanganui), with 11 per cent of adults also affected.

Reid said that with winter approaching, it's important to be aware of the seasonal changes, with viral infections being one of the major asthma triggers.

"With the onset of cold and flu season, it is critical that adult asthmatics and parents watch out for asthma symptoms which may signal a potentially deadly attack," he said.

Reid said asthmatics and parents need to be aware of what can set off an attack and have a management plan in place beforehand.

"Common asthma triggers to be aware of include; a cold or virus, cigarette smoke (including passive smoking), exposure to nitrogen dioxide from gas heaters and car exhausts, and indoor dampness or mould," he said.

"As the temperature drops at this time of year, cold air can cause constriction of airways which is also a risk factor for asthmatics. It is important to maintain a temperature of around 20 degrees in the home."