The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak is a critical time for everyone, even if you’re young, health, and fighting fit. But if you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from asthma, these strange times can be even more concerning. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently released some updated information about how people with moderate to severe asthma can stay safe during the ongoing outbreak.
COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that can result in a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, while asthma is a long-term inflammatory disease that can cause a “tightening” of the airways and difficulty breathing. There are currently no published data about the risk of COVID-19 for people with asthma. However, experiencing these two conditions together is considered to be a particular cause for concern as they both affect the lungs and respiratory system.
So, what does the CDC advise? First and foremost, it reiterates the importance of sticking to the everyday precautions that all of us should be taking: stay at home if possible, stay 2 meters (over 6 feet) away from others if you do go out in public, and wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Ensure that you have and follow an asthma action plan, a personalized plan for keeping your asthma under control. As ever, try to avoid asthma triggers, whether it’s dusting, burning fires, air pollution, pets, or mold. Asthma sufferers should also continue taking current medications as advised by their physician, including any inhalers with steroids (also known as corticosteroids) in them.
There have been some reports that have suggested steroids might increase the shedding of SARS-CoV-2 and makes it harder for the body to "clear" the infection, potentially increasing the risk of complications. However, the overwhelming majority of experts and health authorities say it’s safest to continue taking your medication as usual since this is where the greatest risk lies.
The CDC also states people with asthma should ensure they are stocked up on medication and treatments. As with any sickness, you don’t want to find yourself running low on supplies, especially at a time when it might be difficult to visit your pharmacist. The CDC even states people should consider contacting their healthcare provider, insurer, and pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of prescription medications, such as asthma inhalers.
If you do start to display some symptoms – most notably fever, a new cough, and shortness of breath – then the CDC recommends you contact your healthcare provider.
“The bottom line for people with asthma during this pandemic is to keep doing what you have been doing all along – continue taking your controller medication, and inform your healthcare provider of any symptoms that you may develop,” according to Dr Andrew D Moore, a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.
"And of course, remember to practice social distancing and wash your hands." That goes for everyone.