20 March 2020
NAC urges HCPs to be extra diligent with asthma patients on COVID-19
That National Asthma Council (NAC) has issued a communication to doctors and othe health care professionals Australia wide urging them to take extra care in ensuring their patients maintain good asthma control as novel coronavirus(COVID-19) spreads.
The NAC release urges HCPs to work with their asthma patients now to establish optimal control, ahead of future challenges including COVID-19 and the upcoming influenza season.
Professor Peter Wark, National Asthma Council director and respiratory physician, says there is not enough data to know exactly how COVID-19 affects people with asthma, but from previous experience people with asthma are expected to be at more risk of serious illness if they contract the disease.
“Health care professionals can help by speaking with their patients about the importance ofusing their preventer, updating their action plan and checking device technique.”
Medication adherence is particularly important, according to Professor Wark. People with asthma should make sure they have enough medication to last a month, but they should not stockpile as increased demand has led to shortages in some pharmacies this week, he said.
NAC said that they welcomed yesterday’s announcement that new limits will apply to dispensing certain medications, to protect supply for people with asthma.
Professor Wark also urges health professionals to stop the use of nebulisers both in the clinicand in patients’ homes, saying “Nebulisers can rapidly spread infection from respiratoryviruses, such as influenza and COVID-19. A puffer and spacer is a much better option and canwork just as effectively”.
If a patient with asthma does contract COVID-19, Professor Wark said systemic corticosteroids should be used with caution. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has advised against the use of systemic corticosteroids, because of the potential for prolonging viral replication as observed in COVID-19 patients, unless indicated for other reasons.
NAC issued this communique for patients:
Patients with asthma who have COVID-19 should continue taking their inhaled corticosteroid preventer, if prescribed.
Other key considerations for health professionals working with asthma patients include:
- Help your patients achieve good asthma control: reinforce medication adherence, check device technique and ensure they have a written asthma action plan and know how to follow it.
- Perform spirometry only if essential to guide management and if comprehensive infection control procedures are in place. For more information visit the National Asthma Council website.
- Urge patients to take extra care during the upcoming flu season and offer vaccination if appropriate. Visit the Australian Asthma Handbook for more on respiratory infections, a common trigger for asthma flare-ups.
- Patients with asthma who contract COVID-19 should continue taking their inhaled corticosteroid preventer, if prescribed. Ensure patients understand the distinction between systemic and local treatments.2
- Urge patients to follow the advice from health authorities to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19, including social distancing and good hygiene.
Health professionals can find more advice regarding COVID-19 and asthma, including information for their asthma patients, on the National Asthma Council website.