Keeping healthy is top of mind for everyone considering the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. However, for people with asthma there’s even greater concern about getting very sick from COVID-19 – a virus which affects the respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs) and can lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease1.

If people can manage their asthma at home this would be far better than ending up in hospital, amidst this viral epidemic right now.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 235 million people globally suffer from asthma2. According to The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, people who have severe asthma are most susceptible to viral infections and since COVID-19 is also a viral infection, these individuals need to take special care. Other people who should take extra precautions are those who have chronic conditions that compromise their immune systems. This includes people with cancer and people with diabetes3.

Follow your asthma action plan

The Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) has advised that patients with asthma should not stop their prescribed inhaled corticosteroid controller medication, as prescribed by their doctor. If a person’s asthma gets worse, it is important to follow the instructions on their asthma action plan. GINA also recommends that in acute asthma attacks, a pressurized metered dose inhaler (pMDI) via a spacer is the preferred treatment, and not a nebulizer4.

A proper asthma action plan and understanding of the illness can prevent a poor quality of life, more frequent use of rescue (reliever) medication, increased hospital visits or even death as a result of poorly controlled asthma5. It is imperative also that people with asthma know how to use their inhalers correctly to make sure that they are in fact getting their medication to where it is needed – their lungs6.

  • All asthmatics should have enough emergency supply of prescribed medications at home1.
  • It is recommended that each asthmatic has the following at home: a preventer, a reliever and a spacer4.
  • Nebulizers should be avoided for acute attacks as they increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 to other patients and healthcare professionals6.
  • While a patient is being treated for a severe attack, their maintenance inhaled asthma treatment should be continued (at home and in hospital)
  • Avoid asthma triggers1.

1. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention – People with Moderate to Severe Asthma. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/asthma.html

2. World Health Organisation – Chronic Respiratory Diseases. Available at http://www9.who.int/respiratory/asthma/en/

3. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Important information about COVID-19 for those with asthma. Available at https://acaai.org/news/important-information-about-covid-19-those-asthma.

4. Global initiative for asthma – COVID-19: GINA Answers to Frequently Asked Questions on asthma management

5. European Journal of Allergy and clinical immunology – The burden of nonadherence among adults with asthma: a role for shared decision‐making. Available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/all.13090

6. Asthma UK – Using your inhalers. Available at https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/inhalers-medicines-treatments/using-inhalers/

Visit the official COVID-19 government website to stay informed: sacoronavirus.co.za
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