People with moderate to severe asthma may be at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 as it affects the respiratory tract which could cause an asthma attack, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 235 million people globally suffer from asthma. 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.

The Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) has advised that patients with asthma should not stop their prescribed inhaled corticosteroid controller medication. 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 pressurised metered dose inhaler (pMDI) via a spacer is the preferred treatment, and not a nebuliser.

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 asthma. 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 lungs.

 ·       All asthmatics should have enough emergency supply of prescribed medications at home.

·       It is recommended that each asthmatic has the following at home: a preventer, a reliever and a spacer. 

·       Nebulisers should be avoided for acute attacks as they increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 to other patients and healthcare professionals.

·       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 triggers.

References:

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

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

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.

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