Asthma crisis facing children in Africa – Caring for children with asthma

by | Apr 12, 2021 | Parenting Hub | 0 comments

Every child deserves to breathe easy, but the harsh reality is that there’s an asthma crisis facing children in Africa.  Approximately 50 million children under the age of 15 live with asthma in sub-Saharan Africa.  Majority of whom are said to live in South Africa, with an estimated 18.5 deaths per every 100,000 asthma cases.  

The good news is there are new global asthma treatment guidelines that have turned asthma management on its head. For over 30 years the approach has focused on increasing the use of SABA reliever inhalers. This is no longer the best way to manage the respiratory illness. Asthma patients should actually be using their maintenance inhaler more often. The old way of treating asthma actually increases the risk of asthma attacks. This is due to the fact that these inhalers can mask the symptoms of worsening asthma. Not keen to read all the way to the end? Then take the free online test now to find out if your child is over using their reliever inhaler.  You can make use of the local site or global site

Not let’s chat about how to care for children living with asthma!

A parent’s nightmare

Asthma crisis facing children in Africa

Asthma is the most common chronic illness facing South African children. It’s prevalence is increasing in both urban and rural areas.  As a parent I cannot imagine how daunting it must be to raise a child who lives with asthma. Managing the illness must be incredibly complicated and stressful. Conflicting information and the suggestion that asthma treatment needs urgent re-examining makes an already convoluted situation even more complicated. 

Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Asthma

Asthmatic children’s see their conditions worsen when they have a cold or exposed to triggers like pollution, pet fur, dust and pollen.  Not all children have the same asthma triggers or symptoms. An asthmatic child may even have different symptoms from one episode to the next. Signs and symptoms of asthma in children include:

  • A cough that does not go away
  • Coughing spells that happen often
  • A cough that gets worse after a viral infection
  • Less energy during play
  • Stopping to catch their breath during activities
  • Avoiding sports or social activities
  • Interrupted sleep due to breathing problems
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tight neck and chest muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble eating

In severe cases these symptoms may result in:

  • Using stomach muscles to breathe
  • Severe wheezing
  • Difficulty walking or talking
  • Blue lips or fingernails 
  • Increasing shortness of breath 
  • Severe wheezing
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Chest pains

Treatment to help fight the Asthma crisis facing children

There are different types of inhalers available:

  • a maintenance inhaler
  • a symptom relieving inhaler 

Findings show that patients with asthma,  not precluding children, will frequently underuse the maintenance inhaler which contains an anti-inflammatory therapy.  Instead, they over-rely on the symptom reliever inhaler.  It’s usually blue and contains an ingredient which opens the airways known as short-acting beta2 agonists. This provides rapid and temporary relief for children. The problem with this approach is it can mask the worsening of symptoms and increases their risk of asthma attacks.

But wait, there is good news.

There is definitely hope and good news for parents concerned that their children may indeed be overusing the blue pump. Over-reliance can easily be established, thanks to a first-of-its-kind digital assessment tool. Developed by leading experts, the evidence-based questionnaire measures the potential overuse of SABA reliever therapy.

Empowering parents to navigate the asthma crisis facing children in Africa

“By answering five short questions the test result will empower parents to assess their children’s over-reliance on their SABA blue reliever inhaler. The online Reliever Reliance Test will help parents to quickly identify if their little ones are in fact over-reliant.

Dr McKay, a South African doctor very involved in asthma treatment explained

“Given the recent updates to global asthma management recommendations backed by leading expert opinion, AstraZeneca developed the Break Over-Reliance public health campaign to inform and educate patients, health professionals and policy makers. It centers around the potential dangers of SABA over-reliance and the urgent need to address this issue. As an established leader in respiratory care, we are committed to working with the respiratory community to provide tools that will help improve asthma control. Our aim is to eliminate preventable asthma attacks for the millions of children and adults who live with the illness in South Africa.”

Khomotso Mashilane, Medical Director: African Cluster, at AstraZeneca

So, my fellow South Africans I urge you to share the details of the reliever reliance test far and wide.  We are stronger together and we all must do more to reduce the prevalence of asthma mortality in our country.  For more information about the Break Over-Reliance campaign and to take the Reliever Reliance Test click here.  Let us work together to fight the Asthma crisis facing children in Africa.


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Welcome to the blog

Living to inspire has become my life’s purpose, so much so that what started out as just a personal blog has transformed into an inclusive community that supports women and children.  Fit Like Mummy aims to inspire fellow South Africans to find the fit in all areas of their lives.

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