A PIONEERING new online resource for teenagers aims to take the stigma out of asthma in order to reduce hospital visits and save lives.
Mary Hughes, research and education officer for the Asthma Society of Ireland, said teenagers were often too embarrassed to admit to their friends that they suffered from the chronic respiratory disease.
As a result they may not use their inhalers in public or "overestimate their control and underestimate their symptoms" to prevent them from standing out amongst their peers or appearing weak or "uncool", she said.
However, by doing so, they were putting their lives at risk and may wind up in hospital, which typically costs €3,508 per visit.
But a new online resource she developed as a pilot project with students at Kinsale Community School in Co Cork takes the stigma out of the condition. It provides teenagers with easily accessible information on the causes, triggers and management of the condition as well as other vital information they may be reluctant to access.
"They're not very open about it and they don't talk to each other about it.
"They feel their friends don't understand it so we wanted to get into the minds of all teenagers to raise awareness about it and to give them information if and when they need it," she said.
The interactive resource comes in four modules that is designed to fit with the secondary school curriculum and is free to use, she said.
More than a hundred students who took part in the pilot project came away with a much greater understanding of the condition, which affects about 20pc of Irish children and teenagers and costs the healthcare system about €56m a year.
Ms Hughes said the society would be offering the free resource to all secondary schools nationwide this year with the hope that they would roll it out and encourage all students to learn more about the potentially fatal condition.