According to recent research, once Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed in the UK, individuals with asthma had an almost quadrupled chance of experiencing a severe asthma attack. Exacerbations or asthma attacks, which are episodes of gradual worsening of asthma symptoms, are the leading cause of sickness and mortality in this condition. Asthma affects over 5 million individuals in the UK and over 300 million worldwide. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing. The study, which was published in Thorax and presented at the British Thoracic Society meeting, discovered an increased risk of these attacks after Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed.
When the limitations were loosened, fewer individuals used facial coverings, there was more social mixing, and the risk of Covid-19 and other acute respiratory infections increased. The study also discovered that Covid-19 was not substantially more likely than other respiratory infections to cause asthma problems. When social mixing limitations and the requirement for facial coverings were eased in April 2021, 1.7% of participants reported having a severe asthma attack in the preceding month. This share more than quadrupled in January 2022, reaching 3.7%. Data from 2,312 UK people with asthma who took part in Queen Mary’s COVIDENCE UK research between November 2020 and April 2022 were analysed.
Monthly online questionnaires were used to collect information on face covering usage, social mixing, and asthma symptoms.
According to Professor Adrian Martineau, the study’s principal author and Clinical Professor of Respiratory Infection and Immunity at Queen Mary University of London: “This research shows that relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions coincided with an increased risk of severe asthma attacks. Our study was observational, so it can’t prove cause-and-effect. But our findings do raise the possibility that certain elements of the public health measures introduced during the pandemic – such as wearing facemasks – could help in reducing respiratory illnesses moving forward”.
Dr Florence Tydeman, first author on the paper, added: “It is also reassuring to see that Covid-19 was not significantly more likely to trigger asthma attacks than other respiratory infections in our study participants.”
The study is the first to examine the effect of COVID-19 on the risk of asthma exacerbations vs other respiratory infections. It is also one of the rare research that investigates the impact of removing national limits on persons with asthma.