Take care to breathe easy

Be aware: Karen Costello-Grealy wants asthma sufferers to ensure their medial records are readily available in the event of an asthma attack. Picture: Kayla Osborne
Be aware: Karen Costello-Grealy wants asthma sufferers to ensure their medial records are readily available in the event of an asthma attack. Picture: Kayla Osborne

Asthma attacks can be life threatening – something Kearns resident Karen Costello-Grealy knows all too well.

The 61-year-old had a close call at work and while unresponsive, it was her MedicAlert ID that had to do the talking for her – informing paramedics of her condition to ensure she was given the right treatment.

As part of Asthma Awareness Week, Mrs Costello-Grealy wants all asthma sufferers to ensure they take extra precautions to stay safe and well.

“It’s imperative for all suffers to have their medical information on-hand in an emergency as you can’t always get your thoughts together when a sudden attack occurs or worse still, you don’t have enough air to speak,” she said.

“Asthma is unpredictable and can very quickly become life-threatening.”

One in nine Australians have been diagnosed with asthma, which is about 2.5 million people.

A South Western Sydney Local Health District spokeswoman said more than 12,700 people were hospitalised due to asthma in NSW in 2014 to 2015.

“Between January 2016 and the end of February 2017 there were a total of 504 hospitalisations in Campbelltown Hospital and 23 hospitalisations in Camden Hospital with a principal diagnosis of asthma,” she said. 

As a MedicAlert member, all of Karen’s medical information is kept in a secure electronic health record for access by medical staff in an emergency.

She also wears a Medical ID on her wrist and carries a wallet card detailing her health needs.

“I’ve been a member for more than 10 years – it was insisted upon by my GP and I’ve never looked back,” she said.

“My attacks can be severe and while I know my asthma better than anyone, I’m not bulletproof.”

MedicAlert Foundation executive officer Heidi Jones said all asthma sufferers should be wearing reliable identification.

“An asthma flare-up can come on slowly over hours or days or very quickly in the space of just minutes,” she said.

“While asthma can’t be cured, it can be controlled. In the event of an emergency, sufferers can be safeguarded to ensure they receive the appropriate treatment.”

Ms Jones said a MedicAlert ID provided some peace of mind.

“For anyone, especially a child experiencing an attack, it’s very frightening and communicating what’s happening is difficult,” she said.

“In this situation a MedicAlert ID alerts people that you have a medical condition and provides them with information about your asthma.”

Details: medicalert.org.au.