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Asthma Care

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are almost
twice as likely
to experience asthma compared to city people (particularly women).
Rural and Remote Australians have generally higher rates than people who live in cities.

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition where your airways become inflamed by things like pollen, animals, dust mites, pollution, mold or other things in the environment. 

What are the symptoms of asthma?

The typical symptoms including coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Asthma can be "triggered" by a number of things in the local environment including:

  • house dust mites

  • animal fur such as cats and dogs

  • pollen from flowers, grasses and trees

  • mould spores

  • cigarette smoke

  • exercise

  • cold air, and

  • chest infections.

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When asthma gets significantly worse, it is known as an 'asthma attack'.

How does my GP find out if I have asthma?

Asthma can be diagnosed by your local rural GP.  Your local rural GP will ask you some questions such as whether you smoke, or are exposed to smoke at home or work. 

Your local rural GP will also do some tests.  The two most common tests used to diagnose asthma are spirometry, exhaled nitric oxide and challenge tests.

 

Spirometry is a simple breathing test that measures how much and how fast you can blow air out of your lungs. It is often used to determine the amount of airway obstruction you have.

Nitric oxide test - The test is performed by having you breathe into a small, handheld machine for about 10 seconds at a steady pace. It then calculates the amount of nitric oxide in the air you breathe out.  Nitric oxide is found in your lungs and the amount you have can help the doctor decide if you have any inflammation.

Challenge tests — These tests are generally only performed if the other tests are not clear. With these tests, you will be asked to inhale some aerosol and powder which will help the doctor work out if you have asthma.

What happens if the doctor finds that I have asthma?

This will depend on your circumstances and the severity of your condition.  Your local rural GP may recommend some lifestyle changes and/or recommend some medication. If your condition is moderate to severe, you are entitled to be placed on an GP Management - Asthma Care Plan under Medicare.

What is an Asthma Care Plan?

If your local rural GP finds that you have moderate to severe asthma, you are eligible to be placed on an GP Management - Asthma Care Plan under Medicare.  This program is designed to help you manage your asthma. 

The Asthma Cycle of Care involves at least two asthma related consultations within 12 months.

These visits will include:

  • Document diagnosis and assessment of your asthma severity and level of asthma control

  • A review of your use, and access to, asthma related medication and devices

  • You will be provided with a written Asthma Action Plan (or documented alternative if the patient is unable to use a written action plan)

  • Asthma self management education - from the nurse and rural GP

  • Reviewing the written or documented Asthma Action Plan, to make sure you are on track with your asthma care