A "PANDEMIC of silence" could be killing people with asthma during the coronavirus crisis, experts have warned.
It comes as figures show the number of emergency attendances for asthma has halved at A&E's in England – and is continuing to decline.
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Leading respiratory charity, Asthma UK, warns that thousands of people are putting their lives at risk by trying to manage life-threatening asthma attacks at home.
And with hay fever season ramping up, campaigners say that pollen can be a major and potentially deadly trigger for the three million asthma sufferers in Britain.
Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead for Asthma UK and a practising GP, said: “We are deeply concerned that people with asthma might not be seeking help early enough during the pandemic.
"With pollen season in full force, taking these chances could put thousands of lives at risk.
We are deeply concerned that people with asthma might not be seeking help early enough during the pandemic
"It’s important that if people are experiencing asthma attack symptoms that they seek expert help from their GP, 111 or emergency services.
“Although emergency attendances are lower than we would expect and this could be because people are managing their asthma better."
He added: "What the statistics don’t show is what’s going on behind closed doors, and people putting up with regular asthma symptoms and potentially struggling to manage terrifying symptoms of a life-threatening asthma attack on their own.
"The NHS is open for business and people are there to help you. Delaying getting help can make it harder to treat you."
Dr Whittamore said that the main symptoms to look out for include coughing, wheezing, breathlessness and using a reliever inhaler three times a week or more.
Asthma attacks can be fatal – with three people dying from asthma attacks every day in the UK every.
What to do in an asthma attack
- Sit up straight – don't lie down and try to keep calm
- Take your blue inhaler – take one puff of your reliever inhaler every 30-60 seconds, up to a maximum of 10 puffs
- Call 999 if you don't feel better – do this if you feel worse at any point, or if you don't feel better after using 10 puffs of your reliever inhaler
- Take your blue inhaler again after 15 minutes – if you're waiting for the ambulance for longer than 15 minutes, take one puff every 30-60 seconds, up to a maximum of 10 puffs
Delays in seeking help could lead to more deaths or declining health as people struggle to manage asthma attacks at home, the medic warned.
He added that this will only make symptoms and asthma attacks harder to treat and could result in longer courses of treatment or an admission to hospital.
Previous research by Asthma UK found that more than a third of people with asthma have managed asthma attacks at home and don’t get crucial follow-up with their GP.
This puts them at a much higher risk of them having another life-threatening asthma attack, the charity warns.
The National Review of Asthma Deaths in 2014 also found that 45 per cent of people who died of asthma attacks hadn't sought medical assistance or been given emergency care.
People with asthma are not more likely to get coronavirus than anyone else.
But 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.
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.
"Any respiratory infection can cause problems for people with asthma, and so far, evidence shows that coronavirus is no different."
Anyone who is concerned about their asthma symptoms, should speak to their GP as soon as possible and if your symptoms are not improving, call 999.
For more information on what to do in an asthma attack, visit the Asthma UK website.
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