PEOPLE with asthma are used to seasonal colds and flu aggravating their condition and causing wheezing and coughing.
As coronavirus is known to attack the respiratory system, asthma sufferers are now wondering if the virus is something that they are at a higher risk of catching too.
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What's the risk of catching coronavirus if I have asthma?
Asthma is a respiratory condition caused by inflammation of the breathing tubes that carry air to and from our lungs, and it currently affects over five million people across the UK.
People with asthma are not more likely to get coronavirus than anyone else.
But Covid-19, like any respiratory virus, may make people’s asthma worse, putting them at increased risk of asthma symptoms and even potentially life-threatening asthma attacks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also lists asthma, along with diabetes and heart disease, as a condition that makes someone “more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.”
Jessica Kirby, Head of Health Advice at Asthma UK, said: "Asthma doesn’t make you more likely to get coronavirus, but unfortunately if people with long-term lung conditions like asthma get coronavirus, it can be more severe.
"People with lung conditions are more likely to experience complications and need hospital treatment.
"Any respiratory infection can cause problems for people with asthma, and so far, evidence shows that coronavirus is no different."
What is a Mart regime?
A Mart regime stands for Maintenance and Reliever Therapy.
Asthma UK's in-house GP Dr Andy Whittamore says: “Maintenance and Reliever Therapy (MART) is when you have just one inhaler which contains a combination of medicines to help your asthma.
“Mart inhalers include a steroid preventer medicine and a certain type of long-acting bronchodilator medicine which can also be used as your emergency reliever.
"Not all combination inhalers can be used as a reliever so check with your GP.”
Mart inhalers are particularly useful as they can be used as regular inhalers and reliever inhalers once symptoms come on.
What is an asthma rescue pack?
The NHS have sent out a notification saying: "We have been made aware of some inaccurate information circulating regarding special ‘rescue packs’ for patients with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
"Please do not contact your GP practice for a rescue pack. You should continue to manage your condition in the usual way and if you feel you have symptoms of Covid-19, go to NHS 111 online before doing anything else."
While "rescue packs" for people with illnesses such as COPD do exist, they are typically given to patients as a result of existing arrangements with GPs and have little to do with coronavirus.
Is asthma considered to be an underlying health condition?
Most people who catch coronavirus only suffer mild effects and are likely to be fine in the future.
But for a small percentage of the public, it can be deadly, including those who already suffer from underlying health issues.
The biggest threat coronavirus poses is to those with weaker immune systems, and long-term or chronic illnesses.
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Asthma, while not considered to be an underlying health issue, is still a condition to be aware of during this outbreak as sufferers already have breathing problems.
This could lead to the virus causing an infection to the respiratory tract.
Even if an asthma sufferer doesn't contract coronavirus, respiratory viruses like these can trigger symptoms which can lead to an asthma attack.
Should I self-isolate if I have asthma?
One of Britain's top doctors has urged asthma sufferers to stay at home where possible to protect themselves from contracting Covid-19.
Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England said people with asthma should avoid unnecessary interactions.
This has been labelled 'social distancing', which has been put in place to cut down the spread of the virus.
Asthma UK have told those with the condition that amid the coronavirus they should:
- Avoid unnecessary interactions with other people including, shaking hands with people or hugging them, and unnecessary travel, especially on public transport
- Where possible, work from home
- Self-isolation is not needed, but keep contact with others to a minimum
The NHS says you need to self-isolate if you have symptoms of coronavirus or live with someone who does or are in the "high risk" category.
Jessica Kirby, Head of Health Advice at Asthma UK, said: "The best thing you can do to reduce the risk of an asthma attack being triggered by a virus is to ensure your asthma is as well managed as possible – which means taking your preventer inhaler every day as prescribed, and keeping your reliever inhaler with you all the time so you can use it if your symptoms get worse.
"If your asthma symptoms get worse, and you haven’t travelled to an at-risk area or been in contact with someone who has, make an appointment to see your GP as soon as you can. If you think you might have coronavirus, use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service."
Jessica also said anyone having an asthma attack should follow the steps on their asthma action plan and call 999 for an ambulance if needed.
She added: "The best thing people with asthma can do to cut the risk of getting coronavirus is to follow the NHS guidance, which is regularly updated."
The NHS have since issued an update on what asthma sufferers should do, including attending any essential appointments alone.
GPs may ask patients to have their consultations via a video call or over the phone.
Sufferers are also being told to regularly clean their equipment with detergent like washing up liquid and not to share with anyone else.
Meanwhile, doctors are only able to prescribe medication for up to 30 days due to supply and demand, according to National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
As there has been no proven scientific link between asthma and coronavirus, these measures have been put in place to keep people with asthma safe and prevent the likelihood of contracting the disease.
The best thing to do for those with asthma is to keep your pump close by, avoid unneccesary human contact and to start a peak flow diary.
Also if you smoke, now will be a good time to quit as smoking will increase your risk from Covid-19.
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