Asthma is a common chronic condition that affects the airways - known medically as the bronchi – that carry air in and out of the lungs. It causes them to narrow, become inflamed and obstructed by increased production of phlegm.
Over five million people currently receive treatment in the UK for asthma. Whilst treatment can manage symptoms asthma is incurable. Asthma attacks can be serious with the charity Asthma UK reporting that three people die daily from the condition.
Asthma usually develops during childhood but can be diagnosed in later life.
Asthma can cause breathing difficulties coughing, wheezing and tightness of the chest. An asthma attack may be instigated by a reaction to allergens such as dust, chemical (such as chlorine) pollen and cigarette smoke and can also be triggered by exercise.
The precise cause of asthma remains unknown. However, those who have a family history of the condition are more susceptible to developing it and environmental factors, such as the presence of allergens, are thought to be influential. Those who suffer from an atopic (hypoallergenic) condition such as hayfever, eczema or a food allergy are also at higher risk.Other factors thought to be at play include premature birth, low birth weight and a mother smoking during pregnancy. Those who have had the respiratory tract infection, Bronchiolitis, which typically affects children under two, are also at higher risk of developing asthma.
No, but you can take steps to minimise the risk of suffering an asthma attack by, for example, avoiding smoky environments and other known triggers. Parents should ensure their children are not exposed to cigarette smoke and expectant mothers should not smoke during pregnancy.
No. Asthma is a chronic condition and is therefore not typically covered by private medical insurance.
It is possible though that if you did not have asthma before taking out your policy – it is not a pre-existing medical condition – then your policy may cover you for diagnostic tests. These are usually relatively simple and may involve testing your breathing capacity, sometimes using progressive doses of an antagonistic medication designed to irritate the airway and identify any allergenic triggers.
You should always seek expert advice before taking out a private health insurance policy and make sure you understand any limits or exclusions that may apply.
Private medical insurance does not cover treatment of asthma. Once you’ve been diagnosed your GP will typically prescribe an inhaler which will either reverse symptoms when they occur or prevent them occurring.