As the coronavirus continues to spread in the UK, more and more people are at risk of contracting the infection. Given that symptoms of the virus are reported to include coughs, fever and breathing complications, we asked Dr Daniel Atkinson, Clinical Lead at Treated.com, for some advice about what asthma sufferers should do and be mindful of.
‘When people with asthma develop respiratory infections, it can trigger symptoms such as breathlessness and coughing, and potentially an asthma attack,’ explains Dr Atkinson.
Can I still use my asthma inhalers if I get coronavirus?
‘You can reduce the chances of having an attack caused by a respiratory virus, including the coronavirus, by taking your preventer inhaler every day as instructed. Most GPs will recommend increasing your preventer inhaler during these times, but check with them before you do.
‘There are different types of inhaler and inhaler colours. Your preventer inhaler will often be brown but can be purple or pink.
‘You should also ensure that you have your blue inhaler to hand on a daily basis, in case you get wheezy, breathless or develop other asthma symptoms.
What are the best ways of managing my asthma symptoms in light of the coronavirus?
‘It’s good practice to have an asthma action plan. It will help you to keep track of what medicines you should take, how to identify warning signals with asthma and what an asthma attack consists of, along with measures you should follow if you have one.
‘People with action plans are in a better position to stay on top of symptoms, and are less likely to need hospital care.
‘You can download action plans online for free. Make sure that you discuss yours with your asthma nurse.
‘If you already have an action plan in place, you should continue to take your regular medicines as per your personalised action plan. This includes people who have coronavirus, or people who are suspected of having the virus.
‘Make sure that your asthma plan is up to date. It’s important that your asthma management is as stable as possible.’
My asthma is getting worse and I think I might have coronavirus. What should I do?
‘If your asthma is getting worse and you think you may have the coronavirus, don’t make an appointment to see a GP. Call 111, or use the 111 online coronavirus service.
‘You should explain to the operator that you have asthma, and that you’re experiencing symptoms. Clarify how frequently you’re using your inhaler and that it doesn’t seem to be having the effect that it should. You should then follow the instructions provided.
‘If you find that your symptoms intensify suddenly, and you’re concerned that you’re having an asthma attack, call 999 and inform them that you may have coronavirus and are having an attack.
What else can I do to reduce my risk of contracting coronavirus?
‘Regularly washing your hands with soap and water, using a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, disposing of used tissues as soon as you can, and refraining from any contact with people who aren’t well are general guidelines for anyone and everyone in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
‘You should also arrange to get the flu vaccine if you haven’t received it already. Flu is another respiratory infection which can be serious and may worsen asthma symptoms.
‘Facemasks are not recommended by Public Health England, as some people with lung conditions have reported breathing complications while wearing a mask.
Can I be tested for the coronavirus?
Yes, the UK government continues to ramp up its testing capabilities. Initially, tests could only be afforded to certain people - such as frontline NHS workers or people in critical care. Since then, increasing numbers of the general public have received a test.
For some people, seeking out a private test can be quicker and more convenient. Though It’s important to exercise caution when buying coronavirus tests online.
Two tests are currently approved for private distribution. The first is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) coronavirus test, which screens for current infection.
The second is the newly available coronavirus antibody test, which screens a blood sample to detect antibodies. A positive test indicates previous infection. Because the extent of immunity is still being explored by scientists and medical professionals, people who test positively for SARS-CoV-19 antibodies should continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines. You must wait 14 days after first noticing symptoms before taking this test.
As someone with asthma, are there conditions besides coronavirus that I should be particularly mindful of?
‘Asthma sufferers specifically should be made aware of the potential risks of colds and flu, as they can make symptoms worse, and can even trigger an asthma attack which could be life-endangering.
‘Besides washing your hands frequently, you should avoid sharing towels, cups or other household items with anyone who may have a cold. Getting sufficient sleep, and reducing any stress you may be experiencing, can also help.’
As an asthma sufferer, where can I find more info about coronavirus?
I have severe asthma. Is there any particular advice that I should be following?
‘If you have severe asthma, you should follow the shielding advice provided on the government’s extremely vulnerable page.’
You can access this information here.
Advice on asthma and coronavirus
We know that coronavirus may be a concern for people with asthma. You should do as much as you can to keep asthma symptoms under control, to minimise the risk of any complications.
You can find more information about coronavirus on our blog page. We are offering all of our patients and customers a 10 minute video consultation with one of our clinicians, whether it’s to discuss symptoms or to get advice about the virus, at the price of £1.