More than a million people in Britain have experienced life-threatening asthma attacks after cutting back on medicine, heating or food. That’s the shocking finding of a new survey by the charity, Asthma and Lung UK.
It shows that one in five people living with asthma – some 5.4 million – have had an attack as the result of changes they’ve made due to the cost of living crisis. Almost half of those with chronic lung conditions that were surveyed said their health had worsened since energy bills and shopping began spiralling upwards.
The charity warned there could be a “tidal wave” of hospital admissions this winter as cold weather hits and people cut back on essentials. Around 15 percent of respondents said they had cut back on using their inhalers to make them last longer.
Ben Robinson from north London has severe asthma and chronic lung disease. Unable to work, he is dependent on Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment benefits.
He was hospitalised recently after suffering a severe asthma attack, and is now recovering at home. But Ben has been forced to cut back on food as his energy bills now take a third of his income.
“I’m genuinely worried that the cost of living rises are going to send me to an early grave,” he said.
“I’ve been hospitalised many times in winter because cold air and colds and viruses trigger my asthma and leave me fighting for breath.
“I’m already thinking I might have to cut back on using my nebuliser and if I have to cut back on heating too, I know I’ll end up in hospital again.
“I’m constantly worrying about money. My lung condition’s getting worse, partly because I feel so stressed all the time.”
Asthma and Lung UK report that almost three quarters of people in their survey plan to heat their homes less. Almost half are set to turn their heating off altogether.
Dr Andrew Whittamore, a GP in Portsmouth, is worried about the impact of cold homes on people’s health.
“Winter is the deadliest season for people with lung conditions,” he said.
“Cold homes are very dangerous for people with lung conditions because they provide the perfect environment for respiratory infections to thrive.
“Cold air is a trigger for life-threatening asthma attacks and flare-ups. In the longer-term, cold homes are a hotbed for mould and damp, which alongside cold air are also common lung triggers.”
Other health charities have issued their own warnings about the impact of the cost of living crisis.
A survey by the MS Society found that one in five people with multiple sclerosis in Britain did not have enough money to start the medication of treatments they needed.
Almost a third have had to reduce or stop treatments or therapies, despite the risk of their symptoms worsening.
And, new figures from Macmillan suggest an around 2 million people with cancer are already concerned about the cost of their bills over the next 12 months.
These shocking figures are another reason why there must be a sustained fight, not only to improve wages as inflation soars, but benefits too.
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