Young woman inhaling asthma inhaler, close-up.

Recommendations for asthmatic patients or with other types of respiratory allergies

On May 5, we celebrated World Asthma Day. We are going to take this opportunity to answer some questions regarding the relationship between allergic diseases and COVID-19.

The data currently available (and it must be noted that there is much we still do not know) does not seem to indicate an increased risk of becoming ill, either by asthmatics or other allergic patients. However, from a theoretical point of view, it makes sense that an uncontrolled asthma could be a risk factor for suffering a more serious COVID-19 infection, so extra care is recommended to maintain the disease under control.

It is, therefore, very important that regular treatment is maintained, without fail. If your asthma is well controlled with your daily medication, you should continue the treatment. If you have recently noticed symptoms of asthma such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness or shortness of breath, you may need to adjust your daily medication.

If your treatment plan calls for an adjustment of your medication when symptoms worsen, you should put that adjustment into action. If you are not sure how to adjust your medication in the event of a worsening condition, we recommend that you speak to your doctor.

None of the drugs commonly used to control asthma or allergic rhinitis appears to interfere with the body’s ability to prevent or fight infection caused by the new coronavirus. Inhalers or nasal corticosteroids are safe and should be used to control an allergic respiratory disease.

There is currently no reliable information to suggest that any specific medication, supplement or food has a beneficial or preventive effect to avoid becoming ill. There are also no specific vaccines to prevent this infection. Existing vaccines to prevent other infections (for example pneumonia or flu) should be taken according to the usual recommendations. There is no recommendation as to the need of reinforcing or anticipating the administration of the normal annual flu vaccine.

To prevent becoming infected, you should follow the recommendations of the General Health Department – restrict social contact and stay at home, if possible; wash your hands frequently, scrubbing them well for at least 20 seconds; use a mask wherever it is recommended; do not touch the eyes, nose and mouth.

The latter can be more challenging for allergic patients, especially if there are symptoms such as itching or discomfort. Talk to your doctor if you have these complaints, as there are several medications that can help.

If you have an asthma attack and need to go to an emergency unit, remember to take your medication plan with you, as well as, if prescribed, your asthma spacer.

Several patients suffer from allergies during spring season. The symptoms caused by an allergy are different from those of a common cold, flu and COVID-19, as shown in the following table below.

The immunoallergology consultation at HPA Group is operational and fully available to help its patients.

Stay safe.

By Dr Pedro Morais Silva
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Dr Pedro Morais Silva is an allergist/immunologist at the HPA Health Group: Hospital Particular do Algarve in Alvor, Clínica Particular in AlgarveShopping (Guia) and Clínica Particular SIIPEMOR (São Brás de Alportel).