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Malaysians Taking Asthma Lightly

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KUALA LUMPUR: A survey found that Malaysian asthmatics tended to ignore their condition in order to feel normal and fit in with friends.

The survey by Realise Asia revealed that 93 per cent out of 151 respondents believed that their condition is not serious, despite worsening symptoms and continual attacks.

This is in contrast to the reality, which showed that only 28 per cent of the respondents truly have it under control.

Half of the respondents found using their inhalers a nuisance, and 25 per cent even ignored their doctor’s instructions on how and when to use it.

As a result, they do not take the necessary medication or precautions to prevent further episodes.

This is reflected in the numbers, which showed 62 per cent of respondents woken up at night by asthma symptoms while 40 per cent of them required emergency hospital treatment in the past year.

Realise (Recognise Asthma and Link to Symptoms and Experience) Asia is a large survey of asthma patients which aims at assessing patient attitudes about asthma and behaviours associated with the condition.

It was conducted on 2,467 asthmatics between December 2013 and February 2014 across eight Asian countries.


The lackadaisical attitude Malaysian asthmatics have towards their condition might turn a manageable condition into a medical emergency, said Datuk Dr Abdul Razak Abdul Muttalif, director of the Institute of Respiratory Medicine.

“If we ask them how they are doing, they would say they are fine, even when they are not,” said Abdul Razak, who is also a senior consultant chest physician.

He told reporters at the Realise Asia Survey media briefing that asthmatics who believe their condition was under control would most likely not be taking the medication needed to prevent serious attacks.

They could also be ignoring symptoms of attacks.

“They need to learn to manage their selves better so that they can lead better quality lives.

“Patients also need to talk to their doctors about ways to manage their condition,” he said.


Asthma is a common long-term condition that can cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.

The severity of symptoms differ from person to person but occasionally, symptoms can get gradually or suddenly worse. This is known as an “asthma attack”.

Prolonged coughing without fever, particularly at night or early morning is a strong symptom of asthma.

Unlike allergic conditions such as rhinitis and eczema, asthma has more to do with genetical factors and the environment.

Asthma triggers can be allergens like dust, cigarette smoke, pet fur and cockroaches.

Physical activities and certain medications, such as aspirins can also trigger attacks.

Some patients may suffer symptoms so severe that they may be warded. The condition can be fatal.

Asthma is considered a public health issue as over 70 million people in Asia suffer from it, and the number is rising.

Among ways to manage the condition is the usage of inhalers to prevent and suppress symptoms.

Sufferers usually have to inhale twice a day to help prevent inflammation of the airways.

Suppressers, meanwhile, work by relieving and widening the passage of the airways.


Abdul Razak said many asthmatics were not able to manage their condition effectively to poor education or finance.

He said education on the condition was not only important for patients, but their doctors.

“Doctors also need to learn how to manage asthma patients and know how to convince them that the condition is life-long thus requiring long-term medical care.

“Failing to do so may cause patients to take their medication only for a certain time period,” he said.

He said government clinics provided asthma medication at a minimal cost.

However, many preferred to go to private clinics because they wanted quick service.

“But when they hear of the price, they would say it is expensive and eventually refuse to buy it,” he explained.

Another public misperception is on the usage of corticosteroids in treating asthma.

“The amount of steroids in inhalers is the most minimum dosage. It is nothing compared to regular cough medicine, and the side effects are very little too.

“Steroids are useful in treating many inflammation-causing diseases, not just asthma. It has to be taken as needed,” said Abdul Razak.



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