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Ambulance service warns chronic lung condition complaints will rise as winter sets in

Date published: 09 November 2017


North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) is urging people with long term lung conditions to take extra precautions to look after their own health this winter.

Statistics from the last 12 months show ambulance crews attended 13,502 cases of people suffering with chronic breathing problems including emphysema and bronchitis, with December 2016 and January 2017 seeing a 21% and 20% increase in numbers compared to the average month.

The ambulance service expects these numbers to increase this year, particularly in winter when conditions can be seriously bad for our health, especially for people aged 65 or older, and people with long-term conditions.

This winter, compared to last, is tipped to be freezing and this, along with the damp weather, forecast ice, snow and high winds, can all aggravate any existing health problems. This can make people with existing health conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) more vulnerable to developing a serious winter illness.

There are lots of ways people can stay healthy throughout winter, and also understand how to use NHS services in the most effective way. Ged Davies, an Advanced Paramedic with an interest in COPD and paramedic lead on respiratory illness says:

“It’s a good idea to make sure you have an up-to-date personalised care plan, if you have one. A care plan will help you manage your condition better, especially during the cold weather.

“The flu jab can protect you all winter and it’s best to get it before the real cold weather comes. If you are in a risk group or aged over 65 or over, it is really important to get vaccinated.

“If you notice an increase in sputum, particularly if it is coloured or if you are getting increasingly short of breath, you may consider contacting your GP or COPD nurse for advice.

“If your symptoms are getting worse, and you have been prescribed rescue medication, please consider using this as well as contacting a health professional.

“Only attend the Emergency Department (ED) if you’re having significant difficulty breathing and your reliever inhalers are not working.

“The right NHS services are everywhere; you just need to choose the right one for you. ED and your GP aren’t your only options when it isn’t an emergency. You’ll often be seen quicker at other NHS services, so check out NHS Choices for your nearest pharmacy, walk-in centre or minor injuries unit. It’s better to do this first, rather than face a long wait at the ED. Alternatively if it’s urgent, but not an emergency and you’re not sure what to do, call NHS 111.”

Lung disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is on the rise in the UK. According to the British Lung Foundation, the UK is among the top 20 countries for COPD mortality worldwide. In Europe, only Denmark and Hungary have higher death rates for COPD, while rates are higher in the United States and New Zealand than in the UK.


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