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World Asthma Week…During a Pandemic

You’ll likely not even notice the passing of World Asthma Week this year, but if you don’t, you certainly wouldn’t be alone.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, promotion of this year’s event, normally observed between 1-7 September, has been cancelled. Whether you’ve missed the recent changes to asthma management, or are curious as to how COVID-19 affects it, we’ve put together a few helpful links.

Did you know that statistically, 1 in 10 Australians are asthmatic?

While it remains unclear whether asthmatics are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, we do know that asthma symptoms are worsened by respiratory viruses. The 2019 GINA report states that even patients with few interval symptoms can have severe or fatal exacerbations. As we fight to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, patients are relying upon informed medical advice now more than ever.

The GINA report is a twice-yearly reviewed strategy document for asthma management based off the best available evidence, and it has been updated annually since 2002. The organisation endeavors to provide educational resources and scientific evidence to advance asthma treatments.

GINA’s two primary goals are to improve symptom control, and to protect patients from the risks of severe flare ups and asthma related deaths. An excellent resource to consider before continuing through this article is the GINA website, and their accompanying podcast.

Considerations for shortages in medications

The Therapeutic Goods Administration recommended back in March that while there are no current national medication shortages, there would be no need to stockpile more than two weeks of Medication in the unlikely event of a patient being quarantined.

Prior shortages in local pharmacies were not caused by an interruption in the supply of medication but in panic buying. While pharmacies have now returned to allowing up to two relievers per purchase, a second wave of COVID-19 cases could cause stockpiling to resume and so limit access to Salbutamol. Monitor the Medication Shortages Information Initiative for updates on any shortages as they present and talk to patients about the risks of stockpiling medication.

Maintain asthma action plans

Maintaining an asthma action plan is critical in helping patients to better identify worsening symptoms and manage their condition. It also provides evidence of taking Salbutamol should they misplace their labeled puffers, and be asked to provide evidence of requiring the medication by a pharmacist. The action plan should contain instructions to continue taking inhaled or oral corticosteroids as usual – but also what to do in the event of an emergency and when to seek medical help. Guided Asthma self-management education and skills training is covered on page 79 of the GINA 2020 full report.

Where possible, avoid Nebulizers in the workplace

Nebulizers have been identified as being able to transmit viral particles up to 1 meter. This could risk transmission to other patients and healthcare workers. The GINA report instead recommends to “deliver short-acting beta2-agonist for acute asthma in adults and children, use a pressurized metered-dose inhaler and space with a mouthpiece or tightly fitting face mask if required“. It also recommends  limiting spacers to a single patient, and encourages families to not share their medical devices (puffers, spacers, masks); more information is available on page 17 of the GINA 2020 full report.

Save the date – 2020 International COPD and Asthma Conference

There will be a two-day collaborative conference with Global Initiative Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) and Global initiative for Asthma (GINA) on November 16 & 17 of this year. The event will be hosted virtually and contain educational material applicable to all healthcare providers. Click here for more information.

The COVID-19 pandemic is particularly worrying for those already living with respiratory conditions. While the risk cannot be totally negated, careful planning, responsible management of medication, remaining up-to-date with the latest health recommendations and, of course, good social distancing practices can minimise the impact that COVID-19 has on those living with asthma.

Authored by:

Emma Sinnott
Support Specialist at Best Practice Software

A note to the reader: This article is light reading on topics you may be interested in and does not substitute for your own independent research. Some links may become out of date, so please check for updates before actioning any advice.