Information For Patients

Asthma and COPD Adviceline service

During the Summer The HSE, Asthma Society of Ireland and COPD Support Ireland commenced a new joint Adviceline service for people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Asthma and COPD are two of the largest chronic diseases in Ireland with 850,000 people living with either asthma or COPD. While the Asthma Society has been operating an Asthma Adviceline for over 25 years, this new expanded service meets the needs of an increasing population with COPD.

The expanded Adviceline service is a collaboration between the Asthma Society of Ireland (ASI), COPD Support Ireland and the Health Service Executive. The COPD Adviceline is available at 1800 83 21 46 and the Asthma Adviceline is available at 1800 44 54 64. Callers can avail of the service by calling the free phone number between 09:00 and 17:00 Monday to Friday. A call back appointment with an experienced respiratory nurse specialist will be scheduled for a time and day that suits each individual caller.

Respiratory illness can be complex and the advice and support offered by a specialist nurse can inspire confidence in the message of self management and reassure callers or families of people living with these lifelong chronic conditions. The nurses working on the Adviceline have a great knowledge of asthma and COPD as well as significant clinical experience of caring for these patients, giving them an insight into the challenges faced by patients in terms of managing their asthma or COPD. They are uniquely placed to offer information and support to this group. As part of this new expanded service, nurses will be available for more hours each week to speak to callers. The new joint service will:

  • Provide an easily accessible support and education service to people living with asthma and/ or COPD
  • Empower people to engage effectively with their healthcare professionals and healthcare services
  • Provide people with appropriate services, resources and materials
  • Encourage people to look after their general health and wellbeing through encouraging smoking cessation, physical activity, and promoting vaccinations.

Patient education tools, resources and booklets will be made available to patients along with the adviceline support to ensure that patients are best informed and supported in managing their condition.


What is Asthma?

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways – the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. The airways become over-sensitive, which means that they react to things that would normally not cause a problem, such as cold air or dust.

This reaction means that muscles around the wall of the airway tighten up, making it narrow and difficult for the air to flow in and out. The lining of the airways then gets swollen (just like your nose during a cold) and sticky mucus is produced, clogging up the breathing passages.

With the airways narrowed like this, you can see why it becomes difficult for air to move in and out and why the chest has to work so much. Tightening of muscle around the airways can happen quickly and is the most common cause of mild asthma.

Thankfully, this tightness can be relieved quickly with the right inhaler. However, the swelling and mucus happen more slowly and need a different treatment. They take longer to clear up and are a particular problem in more severe asthmatic cases.


Other types of asthma:

There are other types of asthma that can be made worse by certain activities:

Work-aggravated asthma is pre-existing asthma that is made worse by dust and fumes at work.

Occupational asthma is caused by exposure to specific substances at work. For example, some nurses develop occupational asthma after exposure to latex, and some workers in the food-processing industry develop occupational asthma as a response of exposure to flour.

For more on occupational asthma, visit http://www.asthma.ie/get-help/learn-about-asthma/asthma-triggers-a-z/occupations-and-asthma



What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. People with COPD have trouble breathing in and out. This is referred to as airflow obstruction.

Breathing difficulties are caused by long-term damage to the lungs, usually because of smoking.

How common is COPD?

COPD is one of the most common respiratory diseases in Ireland. It usually affects people over the age of 35.

Around 110,000 people in Ireland have been diagnosed with COPD, but it is thought that there are about 2 00,000 people living with the disease who have not been diagnosed. This is because many people who develop the symptoms of COPD do not get medical help because they often dismiss their symptoms as a ‘smoker’s cough’.

COPD affects more men than women. However, according to the Irish Thoracic Society, rates of COPD in women are increasing.

The main cause of COPD is smoking. The likelihood of developing COPD increases the more you smoke and the longer you’ve been smoking.

The effects of COPD

People with COPD have trouble breathing in and out, known as airflow obstruction. Their lungs become inflamed due to irritation, usually from cigarette smoke.

Over many years, the inflammation leads to permanent changes in the lung. The walls of the airways get thicker in response to the inflammation and more mucus is produced. Damage to the delicate walls of the air sacs in the lungs means the lungs lose their normal elasticity. It becomes much harder to breathe, especially when you exert yourself. The changes in the lungs cause the symptoms of breathlessness, cough and phlegm associated with COPD.

Although any damage that has already occurred to your lungs cannot be reversed, you can prevent COPD from developing or getting worse by making lifestyle changes.

Treatment for COPD usually involves relieving the symptoms, for example by using an inhaler to make breathing easier.

Although COPD causes about 1,500 deaths a year in Ireland, severe COPD can be prevented by making changes to your lifestyle.


Source: www.hse.ie


Further information and resources are available from: