Adults with asthma had roughly doubled the risk of a severe asthma attack after UK COVID-19 restrictions were lifted
Severe asthma attacks have become much more common after COVID-19, according to new research from Queen Mary University of London.
Episodes of progressively worsening asthma symptoms, called asthma exacerbations or attacks, are the leading cause of illness and death in this condition. Asthma affects over 5 million people in the UK and over 300 million worldwide.
Symptoms of a severe asthma attack
Symptoms include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- The tight chest
- To cough
Published in Thorax and presented at today’s meeting of the British Thoracic Society, the research found an increased risk of these attacks after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
The easing of restrictions meant fewer people wore face coverings, and there was more social mixing, and therefore a higher risk of COVID-19 and other acute respiratory infections. The research also found that COVID-19 was not significantly more likely to trigger asthma attacks than other respiratory infections.
In April 2021, when social mixing restrictions and the need for face coverings began to be eased, 1.7% of participants said they had had a serious asthma attack in the previous month. In January 2022, this proportion more than doubled to 3.7%.
The study analyzed data from 2,312 UK adults with asthma, participating in Queen Mary’s COVIDENCE UK study between November 2020 and April 2022. Monthly online questionnaires collected data on the use of face coverings. face, social mix and asthma symptoms.
Face masks may protect against severe asthma attacks
Professor Adrian Martineau, lead author of the research and Clinical Professor of Respiratory Infection and Immunity at Queen Mary University of London, commented: “This research shows that the easing of Covid-19 restrictions coincided with an increased risk of severe asthma attacks.
“Our study was observational, so it cannot prove cause and effect. But our findings raise the possibility that some elements of public health measures introduced during the pandemic – such as wearing face masks – could help reduce respiratory illnesses in the future.”
“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,” added Dr. Florence Tydeman, first author of the item.
The study is the first to compare the influence of COVID-19 versus other respiratory infections on the risk of asthma exacerbations. And it is one of the few studies that examines the impact of lifting national restrictions on people with asthma.