Updated 02 August 2017

1 in 5 SA kids affected by asthma

Asthma now affects one in five children in South Africa and was a bigger global health crisis than HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis.


Asthma now affects one in five children in South Africa and was a bigger global health crisis than HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis, Professor Robin Green, head of paediatrics and child health at the University of Pretoria, told a pharmacy conference in Durban recently.

Green, an internationally respected asthma and allergy expert, was addressing pharmacists and nursing practitioners attending the 4th annual Clicks Pharmacy Conference. He said that the condition, which is an inflammation of the airways of the lungs, was now the most common chronic condition impacting the health of humankind.

"And it is expected to increase by 50% every decade."

Reason for increase unclear

Causes of the staggering rise were being debated, he explained. Some believe excessive hygiene, especially around babies, meant their bodies had switched from fighting infection to fighting allergies. Others said children who watched too much television were not taking the deep sighing breaths needed to develop strong lungs, while others blamed medicines containing paracetamol, an ingredient in widely used, over-the-counter pain and fever drugs.

"What we do know is that over the last 40 years there has been a sharp increase in the global prevalence, suffering, death and economic burden associated with asthma and that now about 300 million people are affected world-wide," said Green.

Quality of life

"If people take their medication and use it properly they can regain a good quality of life which is the ultimate goal," he added.

However too often patients didn't stick to their medicine regimen or used sprays incorrectly. Research showed that most patients had low expectations of the control that could be achieved.

"It's a vicious cycle where people learn to live with and accept their condition and, because they don’t complain, their doctors don't realise there is still a problem."

The involvement of pharmacists and nursing practitioners was crucial as they were on the frontline in asthma control and needed to teach patients why they had to adhere to their medication and how use their pumps properly. - (Health24, September 2010)


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Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

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