The Asthma Society of Ireland has been "inundated" with calls from people with asthma who are concerned about COVID-19 (coronavirus).
The charity is advising people with the condition to be particularly vigilant in their asthma management and follow the public health advice provided by the HSE.
"We have been inundated with calls from individuals with asthma and 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," explained Asthma Society CEO, Sarah O'Connor.
The society has called on the HSE to develop specific COVID-19 advice for people with long-term respiratory conditions.
"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," Ms O'Connor said.
She pointed out that the society is extending the hours of its asthma and COPD adviceline, in order to meet increased demand.
"This free service is available on 1800 44 54 64. 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," Ms O'Connor noted.
She added that in the absence of more detailed advice specific to people with long-term respiratory illnesses, the society has developed a ‘Frequently Asked Questions' section on coronavirus for asthma and COPD patients in particular. This can also be found on the society's website.
The society said that currently, the most important thing that people with asthma or COPD can do is to ensure that their underlying condition is well managed.
The HSE has advised people from vulnerable groups, which includes people with a long-term respiratory illness, to 'self-separate'. The society is "strongly recommending that patients, their carers, family and friends closely follow the HSE's advice on how to avoid spreading the virus".
The society offers the following tips for managing your asthma:
-Take your preventer inhaler as prescribed. This will decrease your risk of suffering an asthma attack and reduce your asthma symptoms. Check out the Asthma Society's information on preventer inhalers here and our recent SafetyCare campaign here
-Have an up-to-date Asthma Action Plan, which will help you recognise when your asthma is deteriorating. Download one here
-Have an up-to-date Communications Card, which will help you manage your COPD. Download one here
-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. Download our Asthma Attack Card here
-Know your asthma triggers in order to avoid them where possible. Check out our information on asthma triggers here
-Ensure you are practicing proper inhaler technique. Check our inhaler technique page for demonstrations of all inhalers on the Irish market here
-If your inhaler requires a spacer, we recommend you use one to ensure best medication delivery. Check out our information on spacer usage here
-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. Simply email a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID-19 is spread through close contact with an infected person's body fluids (e.g. droplets from coughing or sneezing), or by touching surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on.
It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of the virus to show. These may include a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and fever (high temperature).
COVID-19 can also cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia and severe breathing difficulties. Some 80% of cases will be mild to moderate, 14% will be more severe, while 6% will be critical.
To limit the spread of COVID-19, people should:
-Practice social distancing and avoid crowded places
-Wash their hands properly and often
-Cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, or cough and sneeze into their elbow
-Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
-Stay at home if they are sick to avoid spread of whatever infection they have.
For more information on COVID-19, click here.
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