Asthma is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the lungs. This leads to symptoms such as wheezing, breathlessness and coughing. There is no evidence to suggest that those who have asthma are at an increased risk of contracting coronavirus. However, individuals with poorly controlled asthma, or asthma that requires steroid treatment are at a higher risk of developing complications if they contract COVID-19.
Why are asthmatics “high risk”?
Viral infections are a major cause of asthma attacks. COVID-19 causes inflammation of lung tissue, making it difficult to breathe. This can trigger an asthma attack or cause further complications such as pneumonia. Because asthmatics already have a compromised lung function, there is a higher chance that they will develop serious complications if they contract the virus. They are likely to struggle more than someone who has full lung capacity.
Will using a steroid inhaler make Coronavirus worse?
Steroid inhalers, also known as “preventer inhalers”, help to control lung inflammation and prevent acute symptoms. High levels of steroids can have a negative affect on your immune system, but the level of steroids in a preventer inhaler is very small in comparison to tablets. There is a much greater risk to your health if you contract coronavirus and you have poorly controlled asthma. Steroid inhalers keep asthma under control and will reduce the chances of complications when used correctly. Preventer inhalers that contain corticosteroids control the level of inflammation in the lungs. Asthma UK advise that you should use your preventer inhaler as prescribed to reduce your risk from coronavirus.
What else can I do to reduce the risk from COVID-19?
If you have asthma, you should follow these steps:
Stay at home
Only leave the house if you need to get essentials such as food and medication. You should only go to work if you are unable to work from home.
Keep using your preventer inhaler
This will help to keep inflammation in your lungs under control, reducing the risk of complications such as an asthma attack. You should follow your asthma plan and stick to your prescribed asthma treatment.
Keep your reliever inhaler with you
The most common type of reliever inhaler is a salbutamol inhaler, also known as Ventolin. You should only use this inhaler if you are experiencing symptoms such as wheeze, shortness of breath or cough. If you feel that your symptoms are worse than usual, you should consult your GP or call 111 for advice.
Minimise contact with asthma triggers
- Strong smells such as fragrances
- Extreme weather conditions (heat, wind, cold)
Follow the usual protocol
- Frequently wash your hands with warm water and soap
- Do not touch your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth
- Avoid close contact with people and follow the social distancing rules
- Disinfect surfaces and other areas you encounter frequently
Look after your general health and well-being
You should try and maintain a regular sleeping pattern, even if you are not working. Adequate rest will ensure your body is functioning at an optimal rate. Try to reduce stress and keep your mind occupied. Eat well and maintain a healthy diet, whilst incorporating exercise a few times a week. Use this opportunity to loose weight and stop smoking, as this will be beneficial to your health.
What if I get Coronavirus and have asthma?
The main COVID-19 symptoms are a high temperature and a persistent cough. If you develop these symptoms, you should:
- Stay home and isolate. You should not go to any public place including your doctor’s surgery, pharmacy or a hospital.
- You should call 111 to seek advice. Make sure to let them know that you have asthma.
- Stick to your asthma plan and continue to use your medication as prescribed. You should take paracetamol to bring your body temperature down.
- If you have an asthma attack or difficulty breathing, you should call 999 for emergency assistance.
Should I wear a mask for Coronavirus?
Currently, the Centre for Disease Control in America have recommended the use of face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19. This has been echoed by Germany who have adopted a similar approach. The UK have not issued any guidance in relation to the use of face masks yet, as they are waiting on guidance from scientists. Masks can act as a visual reminder, helping to change behavioural habits, such as touching the face or avoiding close contact with someone else. It is not possible to say that masks are ineffective, as they are being used by front line healthcare workers. The issue is to do with masks that are of poor quality, ineffective technique when wearing a mask, and the unhygienic re-use of masks.
On 11th May 2020, the UK government advised that people should wear face masks to prevent Coronavirus. This should be done in conjunction with practising social distancing. You can protect your face with a piece of cloth, a surgical face mask or an N95 mask.
This article contains advice based on research conducted during the time that this article was written. Advice may have changed since this article was published and you should consult a doctor if you are in doubt.