Recent news headlines have suggested that many people who think they’re suffering asthma, actually might not be.

A claim by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) said that as many as one third of diagnosed adults do not actually have the condition, and around 1.2 million adults are receiving the wrong treatment.

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It’s a claim that has left many reeling – particularly leading charity, Asthma UK. We look at what that means.

Don’t stop your asthma medicine

While they “welcome the development of the NICE guideline which aims to help diagnose asthma - anything which helps a doctor build a more complete picture of a person with suspected asthma is welcome”, their concern is that the alarmist headline of “people misdiagnosed with asthma” is then badly misinterpreted.

“The claim today by NICE that 1.2 million adults may be receiving the wrong treatment is based on small scale studies,” stresses Kay Boycott, chief executive at Asthma UK. “It is vital that no one with an asthma diagnosis stops taking their medication on the basis of this information, without discussions with their doctor.”

‘Asthma is a complex condition’

“Asthma has many complex causes which is why it is very difficult to get a definitive diagnosis,” Boycott continues.

“It is also a highly variable condition that can change throughout someone’s life or even week by week, meaning treatment also needs to change over time.

“For example, people whose asthma is triggered by pollen may have no symptoms during an annual asthma review in winter and diagnostic tests might show completely different readings than if they had the same tests in summer.

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Always consult the doctor

So don’t read the stats, think you’re feeling better and assume you’ve been misdiagnosed - go to the doctor instead.

“It’s important people with asthma work in partnership with their GP or nurse to build a complete picture of their asthma to tailor their treatment.”

Boycott also stresses the importance of people with asthma seeing their GP for their annual review – “this appointment is to ensure people with asthma get the right medication and know when to use it” - and yet last year over one million people skipped it.

Please don’t be one of them: three people die from asthma attacks every day, and experts say two thirds of these could be prevented with better care.

If you’re worried about anything, speak to your hospital doctor, GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist. You can also visit or call their UK Helpline on 0800 121 62 44 (open Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm).