Coronavirus – Advice for Asthma Sufferers and Smokers

If you are reading this, you will of course already be well aware about coronavirus (COVID-19) and its devastating impact upon the world. With the UK and many other countries in varying degrees of lockdown, it is impossible to not feel the effects of the killer disease.

We are often hearing that a significant proportion of fatalities connected to the coronavirus are individuals who also had an underlying health condition. One such condition is asthma, an often life-long lung condition that causes occasional breathing problems and effects around 5.4 million people across Britain.

Asthma sufferers are particularly at-risk because COVID-19 in more severe cases, will also affect your respiratory system, causing havoc to the lungs and airways. Therefore, it is now vital more than ever to use your preventer inhalers exactly as prescribed and always carry your reliever inhaler (such as Ventolin) with you wherever you go.

It should be noted that having asthma doesn’t actually make you any more likely to contract coronavirus, however it could make you more vulnerable to becoming severely ill if you do contract the disease.

This is primarily because when those suffering with asthma also develop infections targeting the respiratory system, it can then cause asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and breathlessness, triggering asthma attacks.

Those with the most severe cases of asthma, for example those who have recently required hospital treatment or have been prescribed strong doses of steroids or other specialised treatments, have now been ‘strongly advised’ to completely ‘shield’ themselves from others for a period of at least 12 weeks. This advice also applies to the elderly and those with various other pre-existing medical conditions such as severe COPD or pregnant women with significant heart disease.

They are told to ensure they have ways of securing deliveries of medications and essential supplies. Shielding basically means:

  1. Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
  2. Do not leave your house.
  3. Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, family homes, weddings and religious services.
  4. Do not go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact.
  5. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.

The charity Asthma UK have also published online further helpful advice for those with asthma during the coronavirus outbreak.

A condition often linked with asthma – and indeed many sufferers of asthma also have this – is hay fever. Unfound rumours have been circulating that those with hay fever should avoid taking antihistamines such as Loratadine or Certirizine during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the way the medicines affect immune systems.

However, Dr. Hilary Jones appeared on Good Morning Britain (GMB) on Tuesday, and was quick to reassure people that it is completely fine to take antihistamines during the pandemic.

He said: “First of all, when people get hay fever, yes it’s true that the immune system is over active in producing symptoms of runny nose, sore throat and itchy eyes. However, it’s a different kind of immunity, it’s the IgE antibody which is affected in hay fever, not IgG and IgM which is the responsible antibody when you are fighting the [COVID-19] virus.

“You can carry on taking antihistamines, without worrying that this is making you more susceptible to the virus.”

The in-house medical expert for GMB also provided further advice for those experiencing hay fever symptoms during the pandemic, adding: “What you do need to do with hay fever, however, is to avoid sneezing, especially because if you do carry the virus, it can transmit the virus further in droplets when you sneeze, so sneeze into your elbow, use tissues and etc.”

Antihistamines can also be prescribed/taken for nasal problems, such as being allergic to cats, or may even help with some symptoms associated with asthma, such as shortness of breath.

Another group of society who may need to take extra precautions during the coronavirus pandemic, are smokers. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, previously warned: “It is abundantly clear that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse”.

Smokers are firstly more vulnerable to contracting coronavirus as the motion/act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips, meaning the risk of transmission of virus from hand to mouth is increased. Some smokers may currently have lung disease or reduced lung capacity, putting them at serious risk of complications due to coronavirus.

Conditions that cause the body to require more oxygen or reduce the ability of the body to use the oxygen efficiently will put patients at higher risk of serious lung conditions such as pneumonia.

Therefore, summed up, smokers will have a higher risk of other infections such as coronavirus lasting longer compared to non-smokers, and have a higher risk of such infections being severe compared to those who do not smoke.

Let us not forget that second-hand smoke is also dangerous, especially for children. The best way to protect loved ones is to quit smoking. At the very least, make sure you have a smoke free home and car.

You can begin quitting smoking today with the help of Medical Specialists Pharmacy and our smoking cessation therapy, Champix.

There are countless benefits to stopping smoking, not just to lessen the risk of complications from coronavirus. You will quickly look and feel better, not to mention potentially save thousands of pounds each year, particularly crucial in the current difficult situation we are all in.

If you would like further advice on what you should do during the coronavirus outbreak, you can visit the website and there is more guidance on the NHS website.

All of us at Medical Specialists hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and staying healthy during these incredibly difficult times. If we all follow the government advice going forward, hopefully we can beat coronavirus sooner than later and emerge stronger people than we were before.

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