Please can you introduce yourself and tell us about your professional background as well as your current role at Asthma + Lung UK?
I have been a GP for 18 years and work with Asthma + Lung UK as their Clinical Lead. I support different parts of the charity by ensuring its work is medically accurate, including helping to create our health advice, liaising with specialist nurses on the helpline or influencing the NHS and decision-making to improve the care of patients with respiratory conditions .
Can you tell us a bit about Asthma + Lung UK? What is your strategy to achieve a world where everyone has healthy lungs?
Asthma + Lung UK is the country’s leading lung charity. It is committed to improving outcomes for the 12 million people who will develop lung disease in their lifetime, whether it’s asthma, COPD, bronchitis or other respiratory conditions.
Fighting for your right to breathe Asthma + Lung UK
Currently, the UK has the highest lung mortality rate in Western Europe, but only 2% of publicly funded research is spent on respiratory health. Yet lung disease is the third biggest killer in the country. As a charity we don’t think this is good enough and we are campaigning for more money to invest in research to develop new medicines. We also want lung health to be a priority like other conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.
What is pneumonia and how do infectious lung diseases, such as pneumonia, affect existing lung diseases?
Pneumonia is a type of chest infection that affects the tiny air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli. When you have pneumonia, these air sacs swell and fill with fluid. This makes it harder for someone to breathe. Symptoms include coughing up mucus, high fever, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and loss of appetite.
It is one of the leading causes of death in winter, and people with existing lung conditions are at greater risk of serious illness.
Babies and young children are at greater risk of pneumonia because their immune systems are not yet fully developed. How does pneumonia affect the lives of children and their families? What needs to be done to improve the diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia in children?
Many cases of childhood pneumonia can be prevented. Reducing exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke (even through clothing), promoting routine childhood vaccinations, and a healthy diet and regular exercise are all important to protecting children’s lungs.
The special theme of World Pneumonia Day 2022 is “Pneumonia Affects Everyone”. How important is it to improve the visibility of this disease and the people it affects?
Pneumonia is thought to only affect older, more vulnerable people, but that’s not always the case, with Asthma + Lung UK research showing that every year almost one in a hundred adults are affected by the infection.
Pneumonia is dangerous and can be fatal, so it is important to know how to prevent it. Some steps people can take to protect themselves are not smoking, practicing hand washing to prevent infection, and getting a pneumonia vaccination if eligible.
The absorption of this sting is not as high as it should be. Those eligible for the free vaccine are adults over 65, those in high-risk groups such as metalworkers and welders, and children and adults with chronic health conditions such as COPD or severe asthma. Most adults only need this vaccination once in their lifetime.
How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected the diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia?
It’s actually been a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, people are more aware of respiratory diseases and are more likely to take respiratory problems seriously. On the other hand, some people are more resistant to seeking medical help or find it difficult to access it.
What are the next steps for you and your work? Are there any exciting projects ahead?
Asthma + Lung UK is now funding important research into the effect of female hormones on asthma, as we know that women are more likely to be hospitalized with asthma than men and are twice as likely to die from an asthma attack.
Where can readers find more information?
You can find more information about pneumonia on our website here: http://asthmaandlung.org.uk/pneumonia
About Dr. Andy Whittamore
Andy is a practicing GP in Portsmouth and clinical lead for the charity. He has worked as a general practitioner for over 15 years and has extensive knowledge of the diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases, including asthma, in primary care. He has held a number of roles in driving innovation and quality improvement, including working for the Primary Care Respiratory Society UK, in the Department of Health’s Respiratory Program and as the Clinical Champion for FeNO testing at NHS England.
Andy has been interviewed by a number of national and regional media including the Telegraph, BBC and Sky, and written for publications including GP Online, OnMedica and Patient.info and can provide specialist clinical insight into all lung conditions as well as how digital innovations as apps can help people manage their lung health.
Follow Andy on Twitter: @76whit