What is chronic respiratory condition

Two of the most common chronic respiratory conditions are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Did you know that approximately 4 million* Australians are affected by these two?
Both Asthma and COPD cause inflammation and narrowing in the airways. Narrowed airways cause chest tightness and difficulty breathing. Some of the COPD and asthma symptoms are breathlessness, coughing, chest pain, fatigue shortness of breath after physical activity, etc.
Although Asthma and COPD have a number of similar symptoms, there are a few important differences.


  • People with asthma have sensitive airways which react to triggers, making it harder to breathe.
  • 2.5 million Australians have asthma
  • Asthma can start any age, not just in childhood.
  • 1/3 of sufferers report that asthma interferes with their daily living
  • Although asthma is most likely to occur before the age of 20, it can start at any age, not just in childhood.
  • Symptoms are completely reversible, improved by treatment. Triggers include exercise, airborne pollutants or allergens



  • COPD is a long-term disease of the airways and lungs which causes shortness of breath.
  • People are over 40 when symptoms first appear
  • Over 1.45 million Australians have some form of COPD.
  • Smoking is the single largest cause.
  • There is no cure, but the aim is to improve the patient’s quality of life.
  • Persistent respiratory symptoms despite treatment. Symptoms occur every day, especially on exertion.


This list is an overview of key characteristics and differences of the two chronic respiratory conditions, however not exhaustive. For more information, have a look at the Asthma Australia or Lung Foundation Australia websites.

*Source: Asthma Australia, Statistics. Available here. Assessed on 15 Jan 2018.