A new support service for people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been launched by the Asthma Society of Ireland.
The Beating Breathlessness WhatsApp messaging support service is also available to the families and carers of people with these conditions.
As part of the service, people can message a respiratory nurse specialist about all aspects of their disease management. Users can simply save the WhatsApp number - 086 059 0132 - to their phones and send their message or support query. One of the Asthma Society's respiratory nurse specialists will respond as soon as possible.
Many people with asthma and COPD are particularly worried about COVID-19. A survey carried out in April among almost 2,500 people living in Ireland with asthma and COPD revealed that the vast majority were concerned about becoming infected with the virus. It also found that:
-63% were concerned about contracting a severe form of COVID-19 because of their asthma
-82% were concerned they would not be tested quickly enough if they did contract the virus
-71% were very concerned that they would need treatment with a ventilator for COVID-19
-41% felt there is not enough information readily available on COVID-19 and its effect on people with respiratory conditions.
The survey also found that 31% of people with asthma or COPD have avoided support or healthcare services because they are concerned about the health impact of the virus.
"The results of our survey indicate that people with asthma are extremely anxious about coronavirus. People with asthma and COPD are considered to be a higher risk if they do contract coronavirus and therefore they do require additional support in these uncertain times," commented Asthma Society CEO, Sarah O'Connor.
She noted that when asked what their greatest concern is for the weeks ahead, patients worried about being separated from their children if they, or the child, contracted the virus.
People were also worried that if a ventilator was in demand, they "would not be considered saving" because of their asthma.
"We believe that the new Beating Breathlessness WhatsApp messaging service can help users ease some of their concerns right now during the coronavirus pandemic and we believe it will continue to support and assist patients," Ms O'Connor said.
Commenting on the new service, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said that it "empowers people to manage their condition".
"Beating Breathlessness is innovative in how it provides information and support to people who need it, making it easier for people to access these supports anytime and anywhere.
"It shows how care can be provided even while social distancing, and that there are numerous ways people can access the supports they need during the COVID-19 pandemic, including those offered by the Asthma Society, whose services have been even more acutely needed by patients in recent months," Minister Harris added.
This new service is funded by Sláintecare. It can be accessed on 086 0590132. The Asthma and COPD Adviceline can also be accessed on 1800 44 54 64.
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