UPDATED: 1.00PM MONDAY 8TH FEBRUARY 2021
Do you have questions about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and what it may mean for you or someone you know who has asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?
We have been receiving a number of questions regarding the virus and its implications for people with respiratory conditions. Here are some commonly asked questions and answers. We will continue to update this as more information is released.
Should you have any other questions regarding COVID-19 or would like to discuss your asthma or COPD with one of our Respiratory Health Nurses or Educators, please give us a call on our Helpline – (08) 9289 3600 or 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do to prepare for COVID-19 as well as the flu season?
I have asthma:
- Keep taking your usual medications as prescribed. Make an appointment to see your GP to review your asthma if you still have asthma symptoms. Do not wait until you have cold and flu, get control now.
- Always carry your reliever medication with you.
- Check your asthma medications are in date as well as other asthma equipment such as your spacer.
- Review your Asthma Action Plan and visit your GP if it needs updating.
- Keep up to date with your vaccinations.
- Download our ‘Take Control of your Asthma’ resource
I have COPD:
- Keep taking your usual medication as prescribed.
- If you are living with COPD, be very vigilant about hand hygiene and follow social distancing recommendations.
- Follow your COPD management plan. If you don’t have one see your GP and ask for one.
- Check your medications are in date. Talk to your GP about getting your flu and pneumococcal vaccinations.
If you would like more information on how to manage your asthma and/or COPD call Asthma WA on (08) 9289 3600 or 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462).
If you are feeling unwell call ahead to talk through your symptoms and find out what you need to do. Please do not expose others to your condition.
If you are experiencing any respiratory symptoms, please get a COVID-19 test as soon as possible.
Should I also be wearing a face mask to protect myself?
During the current lock-down in Perth, Peel and the South West, wearing a face mask is mandatory whenever you are outside in the community.
The main benefit of wearing a facemask is to protect people around you. If a person has COVID-19 and doesn’t know it, wearing a mask will help to prevent the virus being passed on to others.
While a mask is an extra precaution, it is important to continue to:
- Maintain social distancing (1.5 metres) from others when you are out in the community
- Stay home if you are unwell
- Avoid large gatherings and crowded spaces
- Practice good hand hygiene and cough etiquette at all times
- Get tested for COVID-19 whenever you experience any symptoms
What is the best mask for a person with asthma/COPD to wear?
Everyone, including people with asthma and COPD, should choose a mask that fits snugly and is as comfortable as possible. Cloth masks should be 3 layers, preferably of different types of fabric, and it is best if one of these is made of synthetic fibres. There is no ‘best’ mask – people with asthma/COPD may like to try a few different types and fabrics to see which one they prefer.
Many businesses are selling disposable and reusable masks. Before purchasing or making a mask visit the WA Department of Health website for the latest updates on mask requirements.
The vast majority of people with asthma/COPD are able to wear masks. If you find wearing a mask difficult due to your respiratory condition, we recommend seeing your doctor to discuss the best option for you and a review of your asthma/COPD symptom control.
Who is exempt from wearing a face mask?
Most people with asthma are able to wear a face mask for a short period of time, even if their asthma is quite severe. However, some people may be exempt on the basis of disability, physical or mental health conditions. We encourage anyone who finds wearing a mask difficult to discuss this with their doctor, especially if you think you may be in an exempt category. There may be an alternate type of face covering that you would feel more comfortable wearing, or it may be a good time to look at your asthma control.
Read more about face mask exemptions here.
Are some people at higher risk than others?
In Australia, the people most at risk of getting COVID-19 are those who have:
- been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19
- recently been in in a high-risk country or region
Based on what we know about coronaviruses, those most at risk of serious infection are:
- people with compromised immune systems (such as people who have cancer)
- elderly people
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- people with diagnosed chronic medical conditions such as lung diseases or diabetes
- people who smoke
While there hasn’t been a great deal of research on smoking and COVID-19, it is important to remember that people who smoke are generally at a higher risk of respiratory tract infections. Smoking also involves contact of fingers with the lips, which can increase the transmission of a virus from hand to mouth.
To learn more about COVID-19 and smoking visit Quit.
Is there a shortage of asthma medications?
Asthma WA is aware that there have been some periods where people have experienced difficulty accessing their respiratory medications.
We understand that some local pharmacies may have limited stocks of some popular products from time to time, as well as stock transport issues from pharmaceutical companies warehouses located on the east coast.
Unfortunately, we do not supply or provide access to medications, however, we can help you with spacers and other asthma equipment. We are working closely with pharmacies but cannot advise on local area availability.
It is important to note that Asthma WA does not support bulk purchases or hoarding.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration released a media statement in 2020 outlining changes that have been made to the restriction of sales of certain medications, including Ventolin, to assist with the local shortages that are affecting people.
Am I more likely to contract COVID-19 because I have asthma and/or COPD?
At this stage, it is unknown with certainty if the COVID-19 is worse for those with asthma/COPD, and people with respiratory conditions generally experience a greater level of symptoms when they contact a respiratory viral infection.
At this stage it does not appear that people with asthma or COPD are more at risk of contracting COVID-19, however, they may be more at risk of serious outcomes from the virus. More research is required to answer this question.
People with chronic respiratory conditions need to be vigilant with their respiratory health, visit their doctor, have an updated asthma or COPD management plan, and keep taking their medications as prescribed. Discuss appropriate vaccinations with your doctor, especially prior to the winter flu season.
I had asthma as a child and now get mild occasional symptoms- is my asthma going to come back if I get the virus?
The symptoms of asthma can occur at any stage of life, even if you have been symptom-free for a long period of time. Asthma can be triggered by many things including colds, flus and viruses.
If you have occasional asthma symptoms, now is a good time to see your GP for an asthma review.
Will I need two vaccinations for influenza this year?
The recommendation is for one Flu Vaccine per year. There is insufficient data to support two vaccinations in one year. Except for patients who have had organ or stem cell transplant in that year. If you have any further queries related to this, please discuss with your GP.
You should have the Flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available at your GP practice or Pharmacy.
Will the flu vaccination protect me from COVID-19?
The flu is a contagious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses. It can affect the nose, throat and lungs. It is not the same as the common cold or COVID-19. The flu vaccination will only protect you against influenza.
My child usually only takes their preventer seasonally- should they be starting to take it again now?
If you have been prescribed a preventer to be taken seasonally, we suggest that you visit your GP for an asthma review to discuss when the best time to commence your preventer. Please do not wait until you are showing asthma symptoms.
Should Corticosteroids be avoided?
If you have read that people should avoid taking steroids in the treatment of COVID-19 please be aware that this refers to ORAL corticosteroids and does not include INHALED corticosteroids.
It is important that people that are prescribed inhaled corticosteroids (a key component of most preventer medications) continue to do so. These medications are helping to reduce inflammation in the lungs that occurs with people that have asthma and are also working to reduce your sensitivity towards triggers.
Unless your GP has advised you to or it is a part of your asthma action plan, do not take oral steroids. Oral Steroids should only be taken if it is part of your action plan or they have been prescribed by your GP or Specialist. These medications work on the whole body, not just the lungs, and if you have COVID-19 they may slow down recovery.