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Asthma, COPD and coronavirus

Comment & Opinion

VULNERABLEMayo has over 10,000 people with asthma, as well as very high rates of people with COPD.

Sarah O’Connor

Asthma Society CEO

We have been inundated with calls from individuals with asthma as well as people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), who are extremely worried about how coronavirus will affect them if they get it, and what additional precautions they can take to minimise their chances of contracting the virus.
Unfortunately, international data indicates if people with asthma and other respiratory conditions contract coronavirus, the health impact can be more severe; they are more likely to experience complications and to need hospital treatment.
The Asthma Society has been liaising continuously with the HSE over the past number of weeks in relation to this healthcare challenge. We have communicated to the HSE the needs and very acute concerns of respiratory patients.
We welcome increased engagement from the HSE with patient organisations … and updated advice that has been provided for people in vulnerable groups, such as those with a long-term respiratory illness.
We have urged the HSE to develop specific Covid-19 advice for people with long-term respiratory illnesses, as has already been created for other disease areas, like cancer.
People need to know that they are doing everything in their power to manage their illness and protect themselves from coronavirus. They also need reassurance that they will receive the healthcare they need and that employers will recognise their particular vulnerability at this time.
Healthcare professionals also need leadership on clinical best practice. This guidance is best provided by the HSE.
We are extending the hours of our COPD and Asthma Adviceline to meet increased demand – this free service is available on 1800 44 54 64 – and we will do everything we can to continue to inform, support, advise and reassure people with asthma or COPD and their families on our website, social media channels and through our other services.
Our website – www.asthma.ie – includes the most up-to-date information available to us on how best to manage respiratory conditions and coronavirus, and this will be updated regularly. In the absence of more detailed advice specific to people with long-term respiratory illnesses, the Asthma Society has developed a Frequently Asked Questions section on coronavirus for asthma and COPD patients in particular. This can be found on our website.
At the moment, the most important thing that people with asthma or COPD can do is to ensure that their underlying condition is well managed, which is detailed below and on our website. The HSE has advised people from vulnerable groups, which includes people with a long-term respiratory illness, to ‘self-separate’.  The Asthma Society is strongly recommending that patients, their carers and close family and friends closely follow the HSE’s advice on how to avoid spreading the virus.
Top tips for managing your asthma:
Take your preventer inhaler as prescribed. This will decrease your risk suffering an asthma attack and reduce your asthma symptoms.
Have an up-to-date Asthma Action Plan which will help you recognise when your asthma is deteriorating.
Have an up-to-date Communications Card which will help you manage your COPD.
Always carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you in case of an asthma emergency.
Know the five Step Rule – which will help you manage an asthma attack if one occurs.
Know your asthma triggers in order to avoid them where possible.
Ensure you are practicing proper inhaler technique.
If your inhaler requires a spacer, we recommend you use one to ensure best medication delivery.
Do not smoke and avoid areas where smoke is present if possible
If you feel like your symptoms are deteriorating, or if you are experiencing a ‘new’ fever or ‘new’ cough, call your GP as soon as possible and they will support and advise you.
Get your prescription filled to ensure you have enough medication for one month – the Department of Health and Irish Pharmacy Union have assured us that there is no need to stock up beyond that.

The Asthma Society can email any of the above resources to patients if they email a request to nurse@asthma.ie. For more information on all of the above points, visit www.asthma.ie. Advice on coronavirus and your asthma and COPD is also available from the society’s helpline 1800 44 54 64.