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Living With Asthma in a Post COVID-19 Era

  • 02 Apr 2024
  • 3mins

In 2019, it was reported that asthma affects approximately 262 million people and resulted in 455,000 deaths worldwide. According to a study by the Ministry of Health, asthma affects 5% of adults and 20% of children in Singapore. Respiratory medicine specialist Dr. Lim Hui Fang discusses ways asthma sufferers can better manage their condition in a post COVID-19 era.

Asthma is the most common chronic lung condition that occurs in people of all ages, and causes occasional breathing difficulties. It occurs when your airways narrow, swell, and become clogged with sticky mucus in response to certain triggers. Some symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing when breathing out, and shortness of breath. It often starts in childhood, although it can also develop for the first time in adults.

As other coronaviruses have been shown to exacerbate asthma, there have been concerns raised on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on asthma sufferers. However, studies have shown that the impact of COVID-19 on people with asthma is complex and will vary depending on various factors including the severity of one’s asthma. COVID-19 has also been associated with a higher incidence of new-onset asthma.

Asthma Management

According to respiratory medicine specialist Dr. Lim Hui Fang, there is no difference in the management of one’s asthma now as compared to pre-COVID 19.

People with asthma can still enjoy a normal life if the condition is properly managed. There are several ways to manage one’s asthma, such as through the following methods:

Identify your asthma triggers: Common asthma triggers include infections like the cold or flu, allergies such as to pollen, dust mites or animals, smokes, fumes and pollution. Identify what triggers your asthma and avoid it where possible.

Recognise your symptoms: Coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath are indicators that your asthma is not well managed. If your symptoms seem to be getting worse, you are advised to visit your doctor to get it treated. An asthma action plan may be outlined by your doctor to advise you on when to take certain medication or when to increase or decrease the dose of your medications based on your symptoms. Dr. Lim recommends you familiarise yourself with your action plan during an asthma attack to prevent deterioration.

Know your medication: Controller and reliever inhalers are typically used to treat asthma. Controller inhalers contain low dose Steroid that reduce airway inflammation and swelling and lead to sustained control and prevention of asthma attacks. A reliever inhaler (salbutamol) work in giving users quick but temporary relief of the airway constriction. Using salbutamol alone without a reliever can lead to worsening of asthma.

Ensure your inhaler technique is optimal: As there are many different inhaler devices, do check with your doctor if your technique is correct, especially if your asthma remains uncontrolled despite adherence. If your asthma is properly managed, Dr. Lim adds that you will only need to see your doctor every 4 to 6 months for maintenance.

“Frequent doctor reviews happens when patients are uncontrolled or not taking their controller inhaler as recommended,” Dr. Lim states.

Development of Asthma After COVID-19

The long-term effects of COVID-19 are currently still being researched, with reports of patients still experiencing health problems months or even years after they have recovered from, which can affect different body organs. Symptoms of asthma can include fatigue, brain fog, gastrointestinal disturbances, menstrual irregularities, heart palpitations, and coughing, shortness of breath.

A study conducted in Korea reported a rise in the incidence of new-onset asthma in the post-COVID era, related to the development of airway inflammation. COVID-19 vaccines can reduce an patient’s inflammatory response and prevent the long term side effects of covid-19 including asthma.

“Though rare cases have developed side effects with vaccines, asthma patients especially severe asthma patient, will benefit more from vaccines to prevent viral-induced exacerbations, if there have been no previous side effects.” Dr. Lim noted

Contributed by

Dr. Lim Hui Fang
Respiratory Medicine Specialist
The Respiratory Practice