- Asthma can prevented by using inhalers and medications as required
- World Asthma Day: Asthma patients must observe all standard precaution
- Any non-essential stepping out of the home should be avoided
World Asthma Day is observed on May 5. Asthma is a respiratory illness that causes recurring attacks of breathlessness and wheezing. According to The Global Burden of Diseases study in 2016, it was estimated that over 339 million people suffered from this chronic disease. Asthma remains one of the leading non-communicable diseases in the world with a significant mortality rate. World Asthma Day 2020 falls amidst the crisis of COVID-19. In this article, we are going to talk about the risks that coronavirus pose to asthma patients and the preventive steps they must follow.
During an attack of asthma, swelling occurs in the lining of the patient's airways, leading them to become narrower and highly sensitive to irritants present in the environment (dust and other pollutants). During such an attack, a patient's body experiences reduced air flow in and out of the lungs. Asthma can be managed through preventive measures using medication and using inhalers as per the case.
World Asthma Day: Know the risks posed by COVID-19 and necessary steps for prevention
A new threat has emerged to asthma patients in the form of COVID-19. The risk and severity of the infection seems to be higher in patients suffering from chronic diseases and weakened immunity. While so far there has not been any medically confirmed connection between asthma attacks and coronavirus infection, the likelihood is always there since both affect the respiratory system in humans. Also, looking at the past, viral infections such as the flu and coronavirus diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), asthma patients seem to be among the more vulnerable categories.
COVID-19: Prevention steps for asthma patients
Under normal circumstances, asthma is managed through immunosuppressive drugs such as steroidsprays through oral inhalers. It is recommended that patients keep taking the prescribed medication although the dosage might be adjusted as per the advice of the patient's physician. In fact, there are chances that any stoppage of the drug usage might actually make the patients more prone to asthma attacks of increased severity. Such an occurrence can lead to risk of exposure to coronavirus. Hence, patients must continue their medication as advised, but also take the following steps to keep themselves safe and prepared for all eventualities.
1. Asthma patients must observe all the standard precautions such as avoiding public transport or visit to crowded public spaces.
2. There is a need to maintain social distancing of two meters or more from other people.
3. Any non-essential stepping out of the home should be avoided during the current scenario.
4. Even when there is no lockdown or curfew, it is imperative to work from home until the pandemic is brought under control.
5. Another major precaution is to be well aware of the severity of your condition since it will be crucial in determining the extent of precautions that you need to take.
6. Further steps such as hand-hygiene and sanitation of living spaces must also be adhered to.
Steps to manage asthma during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Use inhalers: Continue using your inhalers regularly during the pandemic to keep your condition under control and avoiding any risk of attacks.
- Understand the triggers: Asthma triggers are usually different from one person to another. Some people are affected by cold air, others by pollutants and dust, and even smells; different foods or drinks are known to aggravate the condition. Hence, one must be mindful of these triggers and avoid them during the present scenario.
- Keep a record: Many asthma symptoms appear to be similar to COVID-19 such as breathlessness, chest pain and tightness. Asthma patients usually undertake peak flow meters to determine the breath power in their airways. Frequency and type of medication and various other details should be carefully documented, and kept ready for a doctor's reference at all times.
- Keep the right inhaler ready: Depending upon the condition, the drugs used in aninhalers could be different in composition or dosage. You must always be aware of what inhaler to use in case of emergency. Even when you have been managing the condition well and haven't used the inhaler for a long time, you should always have it handy. There is a need to periodically check to ensure that the inhaler is not expired.
Any suspected COVID-19 symptoms must be immediately reported to a healthcare professional telephonically or through digital communication channels. Even if there are mild symptoms, you need to remain isolated at home or wherever you are staying at the time for at least 14 days. COVID-19 cases often cause a patient's condition to deteriorate quickly. Hence, a plan must be in place for transferring the patient to a designated hospital.
COVID-19 is a highly contagious infection that is potentially fatal. Even though there has not been found any authenticated connection between asthma and the pandemic until now, it is important to take necessary precautions. This is a novel coronavirus and its behavior and impact is still not fully known. Hence, working in tandem with your doctor and following the steps suggested is essential to staying safe in these trying times.
(Dr Vishal Sehgal is Medical director, Portea Medical)
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