Asthma sufferers should be self-isolating for 12 weeks, top doc warns
ASTHMA sufferers and anyone who gets the flu jab should be self-isolating for 12 weeks, one of Britain’s top doctors has warned.
Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, urged people in these “risk categories” to ensure they are practicing social distancing to protect themselves from the deadly bug.
His warning follows government guidance which says those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus should be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures.
This group includes adults under 70 who would qualify for a flu jab due to an underlying health condition and people with chronic long-term respiratory diseases, such as asthma.
It comes as 55 people have died of Covid-19 in the UK, with the number of cases surging to 1543.
When asked about adults with asthma on BBC News this morning, Prof Van-Tam said: “I don’t want to go into enormous detail into every single risk group but we are saying it is the people who are offered flu vaccines, other than children, who fit into that risk category, people for whom the advice is very strong about social distancing.”
And when it comes to children, Prof Van-Tam added: “Now, for children, I would say we don’t have complete information – there is now beginning to be a fair bit of information and from China it is clear that children are not badly affected by the coronavirus.
“At the moment we can’t say whether that is because they are not being infected in great numbers or whether in actual fact it’s a very mild illness for children.
“What I can say is all the signals so far are that this illness is mild in children.”
Asthma is a respiratory condition caused by inflammation of the breathing tubes that carry air to and from our lungs, and it currently affects over five million people across the UK.
People with asthma are not more likely to get coronavirus than anyone else, but unfortunately Covid-19, like any respiratory virus, may make people’s asthma worse, putting them at increased risk of asthma symptoms and even potentially life-threatening asthma attacks.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) also lists asthma, along with diabetes and heart disease, as a condition that makes someone “more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.”
Jessica Kirby, Head of Health Advice at Asthma UK, said: “Asthma doesn’t make you more likely to get coronavirus, but unfortunately if people with long-term lung conditions like asthma get coronavirus, it can be more severe.
“People with lung conditions are more likely to experience complications and need hospital treatment.
If people with asthma get coronavirus it can be more severe
Jessica Kirby, Head of Health Advice at Asthma UK
“Any respiratory infection can cause problems for people with asthma, and so far, evidence shows that coronavirus is no different.
“The best thing you can do to reduce the risk of an asthma attack being triggered by a virus is to ensure your asthma is as well managed as possible – which means taking your preventer inhaler every day as prescribed, and keeping your reliever inhaler with you all the time so you can use it if your symptoms get worse.
“If your asthma symptoms get worse, and you haven’t travelled to an at-risk area or been in contact with someone who has, make an appointment to see your GP as soon as you can. If you think you might have coronavirus, use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.”
Jessica also said anyone having an asthma attack should follow the steps on their asthma action plan and call 999 for an ambulance if needed.
She added: “The best thing people with asthma can do to cut the risk of getting coronavirus is to follow the NHS guidance, which is regularly updated.”
Prof Van-Tam also said that the government are giving “strong advice about self-isolation” for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
This is because people with diabetes face greater risks of complications when dealing with viral infections like flu, and that is likely to be true with Covid-19.
Coronavirus health advice for people with asthma
To reduce your risk of asthma symptoms, the best action you can take is to follow these simple asthma management steps:
- Keep taking your preventer inhaler daily as prescribed. This will help cut your risk of an asthma attack being triggered by any respiratory virus, including coronavirus.
- Carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you every day, in case you feel your asthma symptoms flaring up.
- Download and use an asthma action plan to help you recognise and manage asthma symptoms when they come on.
- If you come down with flu, a cold, or any other respiratory infection, follow Asthma UK’s tips for looking after your asthma when you’re not well.
As well as taking care of your asthma, there are some straightforward steps everyone can take to lower the risk of getting and spreading coronavirus:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water.
- Use tissues to wipe your nose or catch sneezes, and then bin them straight away.
- Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands aren’t clean.
- Follow the NHS advice to stay at home for seven days if you have a temperature and/or a new continuous cough. We know this advice may be confusing for people with asthma as many of you will get asthma coughs regularly. If you’re not sure what kind of cough it is, please speak to your GP, use the online 111 service or call 111 to ensure that you get the right care.
- Public Health England doesn’t recommend wearing a facemask. Some people with lung conditions say they find wearing a mask makes breathing more difficult.
Source: Asthma UK
This is because when glucose levels are fluctuating or elevated consistently, they have a lower immune response – meaning less protection against the bug.
Prof Van-Tam later clarified whether people will need to self-isolate for another 14 days if another person in their household falls ill at the end of 14 days of self-isolation.
He told Dan Walker on the BBC: “No, you do not. There are two rules that will essentially run together.
“As you know, we already announced that it was important for for individuals with symptoms of coronavirus to isolate for seven days.
“That rule if you like kind of holds but in addition now, the first case in a household will trigger the entire household isolation for 14 days.
“And it is entirely plausible that somebody else will develop the coronavirus during that 14 day period.
“And if it is on day two of the fortnight, they are likely to have recovered by the end of the fortnight.
“If it’s on day 12 of the fortnight with two days left to run then of course the chances that they will be fully recovered by day 14 are low and that person should stay in for seven days and everybody else who is well leaves the house at 14 days.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced that all Brits should avoid pubs, clubs and theatres, stop all non-essential contact and travel, and work from home if they can.
He set out the need for “drastic action” to tackle the “fast growth” of coronavirus across the UK as increased social distancing measures are introduced for the population.
As part of the measures, anyone living in a household with somebody who has either a persistent cough or fever must now also isolate themselves for 14 days.
All people should avoid gatherings and crowded places, while people who are vulnerable – including those who are elderly – will need to undertake even more drastic measures.
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