Asthma, a condition that constricts the airways carrying air into the lungs, can not only make it hard to breathe but can often lead to wheezing, chest tightness, breathlessness, and coughing. The Covid pandemic has only worsened the situation for asthma patients as they are much more susceptible to contracting the virus, and Covid symptoms can be amplified considerably more.
According to experts, respiratory viruses can trigger and worsen asthma symptoms, and if a person has uncontrolled asthma, they may develop or face severe Covid symptoms. “Uncontrolled asthma can mean that there will already be inflammation in the lungs and airways will be compromised so in many cases Covid may even lead to pneumonia, fibrosis (thick and stiff lung walls) or other intense respiratory diseases,” mentioned Dr Sandeep Nayar, senior director and HOD, chest and respiratory diseases, BLK-MAX Super Speciality Hospital.
Sharing on how to tackle an attack, especially if the patient is not sure if it is due to asthma or Covid, Dr Nayar said, “The major symptoms seen nowadays in Covid positive patients are breathlessness instead of fever or sore throat, headache, cough etc. In such a situation, it is best to use the inhaler so the asthma attack can be managed. In the case of asthma patients having contracted Covid, inhalers and bronchodilators, as well as other medications, should be continued as per schedule. Nebulisers are again very useful in handling Covid-induced bronchospasms. Asthma patients can easily use nebulisation, with or without steroids, to help alleviate chest congestions and pressure.”
Also stressing the need for vaccination, Dr Nayar said, “All asthma patients above 18 years of age must get vaccinated to prevent the deadly implications of the virus even if they get infected. Vaccination will not just help in protecting from the virus but will also help reduce the severity of the symptoms. However, those having had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to the vaccine or any of its ingredients must consult their physician.”
As per Dr Nayar, some measures that asthmatic patients must observe to keep safe are as follows:
*If you’ve recently recovered from an acute Covid infection, delay getting the vaccine until you’re fully recovered and done with self-isolation and quarantine measures. Also, if you had the infection after receiving the first dose of vaccine, then wait at least one month after recovery before getting the other dose.
*If, along with asthma, you also have other conditions causing immune deficiency like HIV or cancers, consult your doctor before getting the vaccine
*Do not step out of the home. If unavoidable, wear a double mask while going out
*Quit smoking as it can be very dangerous for patients with asthma or other respiratory illnesses
*Avoid outdoor exercises, focus on breathing exercises, and doing yoga indoors.
*Take prescribed medicines and inhalers. Keep necessary medicines stocked up.
*Eat a healthy diet rich in nutrients and proteins. Avoid eating out and foods rich in oil.
*Take steam twice daily to avoid chest congestion.
*Keep anxiety and stress levels as low as possible.
“Asthma may not be considered a serious condition by most people, however, asthma compounded by other infections can increase the risk. A very important aspect for all patients is to know the triggers so one can keep away from them and be protected from another attack,” said Dr Nayar.
Dr Vishal Sehgal, President Medical Services, Portea Medical also suggested a few pointers for asthma patients:
*Do not stop any medication without advice from the specialist and make sure to stock up on all essential medicines. Continue the use of inhalers to prevent the condition from worsening. This is especially for those with severe asthma.
*Keep your room and surrounding area clean and disinfected. However, do not spray cleaning products directly onto the surface. Understand what triggers an asthma attack and steer clear of such factors.
*Quit smoking, wear a mask and adhere to the social distancing rules strictly to avoid getting infected with COVID-19.
*Flag any symptoms such as high fever, cold, breathlessness, and difficulty in breathing. This is because all of these signs are akin to COVID-19 and therefore, it is best to get advice from an expert before the condition exacerbates. Also, monitor your oxygen saturation periodically.
*Avoid any kind of physical or mental stress. Do not watch too much negative news. It is also important to engage in physical activity or exercise only after getting advice from the doctor.
*Keep a peak flow meter with you. This will help you measure the speed at which air comes out of your lungs and note down the reading daily. Doing this will enable your doctor to understand whether your symptoms are related to asthma or COVID-19.