Discontinuing medication should be more alarming than coronavirus for asthma patients

In a press statement on the occasion of World Asthma Day, Prof. Dr. Zeynep Ferhan Özşeker, Chair of the Asthma and Allergic Respiratory Disease Assembly under the Turkish Respiratory Society (TÜSAD), said “Discontinuing medication should be more alarming than coronavirus for asthma patients.” Stating that asthma is not an additional risk factor for coronavirus, Prof. Dr. Özşeker warned asthma patients: “You should spend this period at home, as the safest place, and use your medication regularly.”

The number of asthma sufferers worldwide is estimated at 300 million, and the prevalence is increasing in developed societies due to urbanization and environmental factors. Accepted as one of the main diseases of our age, asthma affects one in every seven or eight children and one in every 12 or 13 adults in Turkey. Observed every year on the first Tuesday in May, World Asthma Day is important in raising awareness of the disease. This year’s awareness-raising activities, which were scheduled for 5 May, have been postponed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, however TÜSAD issued a press release to inform asthma patients about what they should be doing to protect themselves during this period. Prof. Dr. Zeynep Ferhan Özşeker, Chair of the Asthma and Allergic Respiratory Disease Assembly under TÜSAD, stressed that asthma patients should continue taking their medication regularly without interruption, and reminded of the importance of compliance with the avoidance measures imposed on everyone in the fight against COVID-19.

Stating that as most of the asthma patients are young and middle-aged, they may be asymptomatic bearers of COVID-19, said Prof. Dr. Özşeker. “In order to contribute to the safety of healthcare personnel and facing the fact that sterilizing testing rooms is quite hard, we do not recommend patients undergo respiratory function tests or be examined with peak flowmeters in hospitals during this pandemic period,” and noted that a better approach would be to carry out asthma controls based on the medical history of patients and through asthma control tests.



Noting that many of the asthma patients are suffering from fear and anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic, Prof. Dr. Özşeker said: “Asthma patients should be aware that asthma itself is not an additional risk factor for coronavirus infection. Furthermore, asthma does not pose a risk to virus-infected asthma patients in terms of the severity of their coronavirus infection. The risk to asthma patients is the same as for healthy people, and so the actions to be taken are the same. In this period, the use of inhaler steroid drugs, relaxant medicines and tablet drugs used for the treatment of asthma or allergies, as the main therapeutic drugs in asthma treatments, should not be stopped, and should actually be used more regularly than ever before, but certainly without a dose reduction. Asthma patients taking cortisone to keep their asthma under control should also use those pills regularly.”

Noting that the discontinuance of medications, irregular use or reductions in doses may cause asthma to become uncontrolled, resulting in asthma attacks, Prof. Dr. Özşeker made the following recommendations:

  • Almost 80 percent of asthma patients have allergic rhinitis. The control of allergic rhinitis also keeps asthma under control. Patients with allergic rhinitis can use steroid nasal sprays and allergy pills included in their existing treatment programs safely during this pandemic period as well.
  • Likewise, patients who have seasonal pollen allergy can keep their asthma and rhinitis under control by staying at home, protecting themselves both from the virus and pollens. On the other hand, as the time spent at home increases, patients with house dust mite allergy are at risk of asthma exacerbations. They should not consider being at home as an advantage in terms of house works, and not be involved in heavy cleaning works; they should also postpone their housework related to the reorganization of their summer and winter clothes. House works that will increase humidity, such as drying clothes at home, should be avoided.
  • If they have to go out, they must wear a mask and leave at least one meter distance from others. They should pay attention to hand cleaning and not touch their mouth and nose with their hands. For hand hygiene, they should prefer soap and water. In cases where there is no soap and water, they should use cologne containing at least 60 percent alcohol or hand sanitizer.
  • People keep talking about the role of hygiene rules in the protection against the virus, however, it is worth mentioning that intense exposure to cleaning agents such as household bleach can cause asthma attacks. Bleaches should be diluted before use and not be mixed with other disinfectants or oil removers.
  • We do not recommend the use of gloves, especially latex gloves  because when people wear them, they may think their hands are clean and gain a false sense of confidence. In fact, wearing gloves is more risky than not wearing them. In addition, the use of heavy latex, in other words powdered, gloves creates an extra risk by triggering asthma attacks in patients with latex allergy. Another point that should be kept in mind is that intense exposure to latex gloves can lead to latex allergy, which is one of the highest-risk allergies.