Coronavirus: what do people with asthma need to know?

Written by: Dr Timothy Chapman
Published: | Updated: 08/07/2020
Edited by: Laura Burgess

Everyone is vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus yet what we are realising is that it's affecting some people more severely than others. Theories are being made and these are highlighting that some groups are more at risk, including those who live with chronic lung conditions such as asthma.

Here one of our expert physicians in respiratory medicine, Dr Timothy Chapman, explains how you can manage your asthma to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and what to do if you think your asthma is getting worse during the pandemic.

How vulnerable are asthmatics to coronavirus?

Those with chronic lung conditions are one of these groups who are at high risk and asthmatics are included, particularly those who are deemed to have more severe asthma. This includes those needing high strength inhalers, steroids, or recent exacerbations.

How can someone manage their asthma to reduce the risk of COVID-19?

Good control of asthma is most important. This means not needing your reliever inhaler more than twice a week and no night time symptoms. 

If you are noticing an increasing need to use a reliever inhaler or are getting night time symptoms, you need your medication reviewed to prevent further deterioration and to help keep your lungs healthy. 

Getting to know your peak flow and using a peak flow diary is also helpful as it can help you track your asthma symptoms and get to know when to seek help. If you smoke, you must try and quit now.

What should someone do if they have asthma and show symptoms of coronavirus?

Most people with coronavirus recover without a problem and the guidance from the government regarding self-isolation should be followed. Keep on taking your regular asthma medication, but if you find yourself becoming more breathless or needing to use a reliever inhaler more frequently, seek medical advice.

What should they do if their asthma is getting worse?

Every asthma patient should have an action plan to follow in the event of their asthma getting worse and this should be followed. If you do not have such a plan, then you should seek medical help to help regain control.

If you are getting more breathless and starting to struggle, you may be having an asthma attack.

You should visit your local hospital A&E department or call 999 urgently for help.

What kind of tests can be carried out for asthma?

Tests are used to help make a diagnosis and ensure good control. Some of these can be done at home with a little education, such as peak flow meter readings. Others will need attendance to see a doctor for lung function or X-ray imaging. Sometimes blood tests or skin tests are done to try and find a possible trigger for your asthma (such as allergy testing).

Do we have any research yet in the long-term effects of coronavirus post-recovery?

We are still in the early days of understanding what long term effect coronavirus infection may have. This may depend upon the severity of the illness that occurred, for example, a severe illness causing a stay on an intensive care unit is likely to lead to more long term problems than a brief illness at home. It is expected that the vast majority of patients will recover without any long term problems though. 

Book an appointment with Dr Chapman now via his Top Doctor's profile here if you would like to discuss your asthma management plan.

By Dr Timothy Chapman
Pulmonology & respiratory medicine

Dr Timothy Chapman is a highly specialised consultant physician in respiratory medicine with private clinics at Spire Harpenden Hospital and Pinehill Hospital in Hertfordshire and Cobham Clinic in Bedfordshire. He has a special interest in lung cancer and asthma but treats all aspects of respiratory medicine, including; chronic cough, asthma, breathlessness, bronchiectasis, pleural disease, fibrotic lung diseases (fibrosis), obstructive sleep apnoea and allergic respiratory disorders.

Dr Chapman completed his medical training at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals in London, and completed his specialist training in general medicine and respiratory medicine in internationally renowned centres of excellence at St George’s Hospital London, The Royal Marsden Hospital and The Royal Brompton Hospital. He was awarded a 'Darzi Fellowship' in thoracic oncology and medical leadership training from the University of Leeds. Dr Chapman also holds a masters degree with distinction (MSc) in Allergy from Imperial College, London.

He has held multiple positions including Clinical Director of Acute Medicine, the Lead Clinician for COPD and pleural disease, a Lead Clinician in lung cancer at the Luton & Dunstable University Hospital and is an active member of the lung cancer network. He is also part of the education faculty at Luton and Dunstable teaching hospital, teaching postgraduate doctors in medicine, and examines undergraduate students for final examinations. He has many papers published in peer-reviewed journals and has presented his work at national and international conferences. 

Dr Chapman will assess your symptoms both thoroughly and quickly with a wide array of investigations available from lung function tests to sleep studies, bronchoscopy, pleural and endobronchial ultrasound and CT imaging. He also works alongside a multidisciplinary team including physiotherapists, surgeons and oncologists to provide a complete holistic service for his patients.

Please note that Dr Chapman does not see paediatric patients.

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