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Allergy Today: Covid-19: People with asthma reminded to use their preventers

The Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) has recently updated its guidance on Asthma and COVID-19.
Overall, they have found that people with well-controlled, mild-to-moderate asthma do not appear to be at increased risk of getting COVID-19, or to have an increased risk of severe COVID-19 or related death.iStock-1287419048-830

However, the risk of COVID-19 death was increased in people whose asthma was severe and not well-controlled, for example, those who  had recently needed oral corticosteroids (OCS) or were hospitalised with severe asthma.

On the other hand, there is some evidence that inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) may be protective in COVID-19. A study found that, of hospitalised patients aged ≥50 years with COVID-19, ICS use in those with asthma was associated with lower mortality than in patients without an underlying respiratory condition (Bloom, Lancet RM 2021).

It is thought many people with asthma stopped taking their ICS preventers during COVID-19 restrictions over the last two years. This was because social distancing, mask use and lockdowns reduced their exposure to pollen and other allergens, irritants outdoors such as smoke, and viruses such as colds and flu – as well as COVID-19.

This significantly reduced asthma attacks, and may have made many people complacent about their asthma control. 
However, Omicron is much more infectious and there is a higher chance of catching it, compared to earlier COVID-19 variants, particularly because lockdowns are now a thing of the past.

Asthma organisations, pharmacists and other health professionals advise those with asthma to have a plan and be prepared as far as possible.

  1. It is important to be vaccinated and boosted, which will help reduce your overall risk of getting severe symptoms from COVID-19, if you do catch it.

  2. The Omicron variant is much more infectious than previous strains. It is recommended that you wear masks, particularly indoors, or outdoors where you can’t physically distance, to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19.

  3. Take or re-start your preventer medication daily, even if your asthma appears to be under good control. You can ring your GP or pharmacist to get advice on this.  

  4. Check your medicines and contact your GP if you need a new script. Most of this can be arranged online or by phone, and pharmacists can deliver if needed.

  5. If you test positive for COVID-19, keep taking your preventer and reliever as normal. However, keep in mind that your reliever might not help with breathlessness and coughing caused by COVID-19, rather than asthma.

If you feel your symptoms are getting worse, seek medical assistance.


More information is available on:
Omicron and asthma - What you need to know | Asthma Foundation NZ

https://www.asthma.org.nz/pages/pandemic-resources


References:
We expected people with asthma to fare worse during COVID. Turns out they've had a break (theconversation.com)

https://ginasthma.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/22_02_10-GINA-COVID-19-and-asthma.pdf

https://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/article/covid-19-pharmacists-urge-kiwis-asthma-use-preventative-medication-daily

Allergy Today, March 2022