More than a third of Taiwanese suffering from asthma do not take any kind of medication, a survey conducted by the Bureau of Health Promotion showed.
The poll showed that 2.2 percent of the population -- or half a million Taiwanese -- had been diagnosed as asthmatic.
Moreover, 37.8 percent of those who were diagnosed by medical professionals as asthmatic never used any asthma medication, including inhalers, while 36 percent used medication occasionally. Only 26 percent took medication for asthma on a regular basis.
The bureau refrained from commenting on whether asthma sufferers were under-medicated, but called on patients to listen to their doctors and to avoid allergens that they might be sensitive to.
The Taiwan Association of Asthma Education, however, said that the nation's medication rate was low compared with the US and Europe, where 40 percent of asthma sufferers take regular medication.
Association president Hsu Shih-da (
"Many patients think it is enough to take a puff on the inhaler to alleviate symptoms," Hsu said, "but they do not take anti-inflammatories which help control asthma in the long term."
Asthma is an inflammatory disease triggered by allergens, Hsu said. Left untreated, the condition might deteriorate to the point where "airway remodelling" occurs and lung function is permanently impaired.
"If treatment begins before the child turns five, we can usually prevent irreversible lung damage from occurring. Through the age of 18, we still get great results with most patients," Hsu said. "In many cases they are able to go off medication."
The bureau's survey showed that dust mites were the No. 1 trigger for asthma sufferers of all ages in the country, with 41.1 percent of all asthmatics and 67 percent of kids with allergies under the age of 12 citing the tiny pest as a trigger for asthmatic episodes.
Hsu said spring mattresses were literally a hotbed, providing food and shelter for the mites.
"I sleep on a wooden bed myself," Hsu said. "Those who sleep on a spring mattress should consider using a mite-proof cover."
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