Objectives: To determine asthma morbidity, use of medications and trigger factors for asthma attacks in an adult community sample.
Methods: Follow-up questionnaires were sent to respondents indicating a history of asthma or any respiratory symptom on a screening questionnaire. A new scale to measure asthma severity was developed.
Results: Questionnaires were returned by 74% (589/795). Respondents with diagnosed asthma had more frequent symptoms and more disruption to lifestyle than those with non-specific respiratory symptoms. Inhaled beta-agonist and oral theophylline preparations were used by 61% and 16% of asthmatics, respectively. Preventive medications such as inhaled corticosteroids and cromoglycate were used daily by only 15% and 4%, respectively. The most frequently reported trigger factors were viral upper respiratory tract infections, cigarette smoke, house dust, smog and other non-specific irritants. Twenty per cent of asthmatics reported occupational exacerbation of symptoms.
Conclusions: There is substantial morbidity from asthma in Victorian adults, which could be reduced by greater use of preventive medications, avoidance of trigger factors, peak flow monitoring and action plans. The asthma severity scale proved to be reliable and valid.