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Asthma: Helping to Clear the Air

There are 12 Canadians diagnosed with asthma every hour. Approximately 3 million people are affected in our country; 600,000 are children. The month of September is identified as “September Asthma Peak” by Asthma Canada; with symptoms often continuing through the winter season.

How does this relate to your benefit program and employees?

Economic Impact

It is estimated that $2.1 billion is spent annually on direct costs of asthma. This includes hospitalization, healthcare professional services and medication. There are also indirect costs including decreased productivity and time away from work & school. Employers see impact to their group benefit programs through drug, hospital and (on occasion) disability claims.

Medical Treatment

The medication prescribed under the therapeutic classes for Asthma fall under two categories: Relievers and Controllers.

1) Relievers provide temporary relief of bronchospasm (tightening of the airways) by relaxing the muscles that have tightened around the bronchiole tubes; they do not reduce the inflammation of the airway.

Common drugs claimed: Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI or pMDI), Diskus, Turbuhaler, Diskhaler.

2) Controllers help to treat the underlying inflammation of the airways. By controlling this, asthma symptoms will diminish and attacks can be prevented.

Common drugs claimed: Inhaled Steroids, Long-Acting Bronchodilators, Combination Medications, Anti-Leukotrienes, Anti-IgE Therapy, Oral Corticosteroids, Theophyllines, Biologics.

Medical Professionals

There is a host of individuals that can make up the healthcare team of someone with asthma.

Family Doctor / Certified Respiratory Educator / Registered Respiratory Therapist /

Registered Respiratory Care Practitioner / Respiratory Nurse /

Pharmacist / Respirologist / Allergist

There is a convenient asthma action plan that can be found online. Having a plan in place, through talking with the above health professionals, can bring much comfort to someone who suffers from asthma.

Asthma Friendly Workplace

Triggers can vary widely between individuals. There are both inflammatory (allergic) and symptom (non-allergic) triggers. Many workplaces are already asthma aware and may not even realize it. Keeping the items on the following lists minimized will help those who live with this condition.

Inflammatory Triggers: Pests (dust mites, cockroaches, animals), moulds & pollens, viral infections, certain air pollutants.

Symptom Triggers: Smoke, exercise, cold air, chemical fumes, strong smelling substances (such as perfumes), certain food additives (such as sulfites), certain air pollutants, intense emotions.

Workplaces can also find products through the asthma & allergy friendly Certification program. Products that are carefully tested and reviewed and, as a result, better suited for people with asthma can be found at:

In Canada, approximately 250 people die each year due to complications from asthma. The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Services in Ontario estimates that 80% of asthma deaths could be prevented with proper asthma education. This high percentage suggests that there is a considerable role to play in the knowledge and understanding of this condition. Chances are, everyone has a personal connection with an asthma sufferer so there is no better time for awareness and clearing the air.



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