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

Amid Covid-19 pandemic, those suffering from asthma told to take extra precautions

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Apr 17, 2020

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Coronavirus can affect anyone, but older people are thought to be at greater risk of developing severe symptoms and people with pre-existing health problems including asthma.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) says 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 diabetes.

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

When it comes to reported asthma deaths, South Africa is in fourth place, worldwide. Between six and 10 percent of adult South Africans have asthma, according to the South African Medical Journal .

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

And, the group added, cases of Covid-19 are mild and limited in time. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. “For now, we are advising those with asthma or who may have immunodeficiency to keep up your treatments. It is important that nebulizers are used and cleaned properly.”

While everyone in South Africa is being told to stay at home as a measure to help reduce the chance of catching and spreading Covid-19, but for asthmatic people, experts more planning and caution should be taken during this time.

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 nebulizer.

Another method that health professionals suggest is a peak flow diary if you have a peak flow meter as it can be a good way of tracking your asthma and helping to tell the difference between your asthma symptoms and coronavirus illness.

The most important way you can protect yourself right now is to keep your asthma under control. If your asthma is not under control, call your doctor right away.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares the following as an asthma action plan to help you keep your asthma under control: 
  • Continue your current medications, including any inhalers with steroids in them (“steroids” is another word for corticosteroids).
  • Don’t stop any medications or change your asthma treatment plan without talking to your healthcare provider.
  • Discuss any concerns about your treatment with your healthcare provider.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider, insurer, and pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of prescription medications, such as asthma inhalers. 
  • Make sure that you have 30 days of non-prescription medications and supplies on hand too in case you need to stay home for a long time.
  • Know how to use your inhaler.
  • Avoid your asthma triggers.
  • As more cases of covid-19 are discovered and our communities take action to combat the spread of disease, it is natural for some people to feel concerned or stressed. Strong emotions can trigger an asthma attack. Take steps to help yourself cope with stress and anxiety.

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