Seven Strategies for People with Asthma During COVID-19
What We Know About Asthma & COVID-19
As COVID-19 infection rates surge across the country, asthma is making its way into news headlines. Research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the end of November suggests that people with asthma may be at reduced risk of contracting the coronavirus.
The researchers stressed that further study is needed, and possible explanations are still being explored. But the news may be welcome for people with asthma—a chronic lung condition that causes inflammation in the airways—who are facing an additional threat to their lungs from COVID-19, which primarily affects the respiratory system.
This singular study is no reason to relax on preventative measures, however. The CDC has warned that those with moderate-to-severe asthma who do contract COVID-19 may be at a higher risk of serious complications, including asthma attacks, pneumonia, and acute respiratory distress.
Following prevention guidelines like mask-wearing, social distancing, and handwashing is still the surest way to stay safe. However, in addition to doubling down on these efforts, here are seven strategies to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic if you have asthma:
Stay Cautious as Restrictions Loosen
Right now, prevention is still our best defense against serious illness from COVID-19. Though rising infection rates may mean that restrictions will tighten in the short term, eventually, the gradual phases of reopening will begin again. Remember that most reopening guidelines center on those who are not at a higher risk of COVID-19 complications. Anyone who is considered high risk due to age or an underlying medical condition, including moderate-to-severe asthma, should continue to take extra precautions as reopening in their area unfolds and adhere to the CDC’s recommendations for their specific condition.
Be Careful with Cleaning Products
The coronavirus can survive on some surfaces for hours or even days; however, surface transmission does not seem to pose nearly as significant a risk as person-to-person contact. Nevertheless, the CDC advises cleaning high-touch surfaces regularly.
This recommendation can present an issue for people with asthma. Many chemical sprays used to clean indoor spaces can trigger an asthma attack—a sudden onset of inflammation in the airways that can cause difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness.
If possible, ask someone else in your household to disinfect surfaces and objects for you. If you need to take care of it yourself, be sure to choose disinfectants that are less likely to trigger an asthma attack. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides recommendations for green cleaning products and includes asthma safety ratings.
When using cleaners or disinfectants inside, open as many doors and windows as possible. Use only the amount of product recommended on the label and follow the instructions carefully. It can also help to use wipes or a dampened towel rather than a spray to avoid inhaling aerosols while cleaning.
Keep Medications on Hand
The CDC recommends keeping an emergency supply (30 days’ worth) of your asthma medications on hand so you don’t risk running out if you need to quarantine, become sick, or otherwise can’t make it to the pharmacy.
If you fill your prescription with Alto, we want to assure you that we are fully prepared to deliver your asthma medications throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We offer free, contactless drop-offs with every single prescription, so you’ll receive your refills on time from the comfort and safety of home.
Continue Following Your Treatment Plan
There has been misleading information circulating online about inhaled corticosteroids (i.e. Flovent, Qvar, Pulmicort, and Asmanex)—a standard asthma treatment—possibly increasing the risk of contracting COVID-19. At the same time, other articles suggest ICS as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
Experts are clear: there is not enough evidence to prove these assertions, and discontinuing treatment or misusing medications poses a real danger to people with asthma. If you have any concerns about your medications, continue to use them as prescribed, and reach out to your healthcare provider. Alto’s pharmacists are also on call to answer your questions by phone or in-app secure messaging.
Watch for Symptoms
The symptoms of an asthma attack (wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing) bear some similarities to the emergency warning signs of COVID-19 (trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, and bluish lips or face)
If you’re experiencing asthma symptoms that do not respond to your treatment plan or symptoms that could indicate COVID-19 infection, seek immediate medical attention. For more information on the common symptoms of COVID-19 and other seasonal respiratory illnesses, read “Cold, Flu, or COVID-19? Your Seasonal Symptom Guide.”
Find Ways to Cope with Stress and Anxiety
We are living in undoubtedly stressful times. Stress and strong emotions can be asthma triggers, so it’s essential to find ways to cope with anxiety during the pandemic and beyond.
It’s impossible to avoid stress altogether, so don’t fall into a pattern of stressing about your stress. It’s much more helpful to regularly check-in with your emotional state and take steps to course-correct when you begin to become overwhelmed.
Meditation, movement, healthy sleep habits, and social connection are effective ways to become more resilient during stressful situations. You might also consider practicing mindful breathing or another relaxation technique that you can use to calm your body and mind during a stressful situation. Your chosen method can be as simple as gradually lengthening and deepening your breathing or mentally telling each part of your body to relax.
Leaning on the support of friends and family can help reduce stress and provide a sense of safety. However, if stress and anxiety become difficult to manage, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. The CDC offers this list of resources for finding a counselor in your area.
When it comes to medical advice, rely on your healthcare provider, not the internet. Our understanding of how the coronavirus works is changing every day, so falling down a rabbit hole of outdated information could cause unnecessary anxiety. Stick to reputable, timely sources like the CDC, and always consult your doctor if you have any concerns.
Our team of patient care pharmacists at Alto is also available to chat if questions come up. We’ll make sure that you’re always able to access the medications you need throughout COVID-19—with free home delivery. Reach out any time via in-app messaging or phone at 1-800-874-5881.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.