As part of ongoing measures to protect the vulnerable from Covid-19 in Ireland, Leo Varadkar announced that people considered “extremely medically vulnerable”, including those with severe asthma and severe COPD, were required to practice “cocooning”.
People in this extremely medically venerable category are considered to be at a higher risk of suffering complications if they do contract coronavirus.
Cocooning is a new term and means that people are over 70 years of age or who are “extremely medically vulnerable”, should stay at home at all times and avoid face-to-face contact with other people.
Immediately following this announcement, people with asthma in Ireland began contacting the Asthma Society of Ireland seeking clarity on what was meant by “severe asthma” to see if they themselves must cocoon.
Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society, said: “We were overrun by requests to our offices and to our Adviceline service looking for an exact definition of severe asthma. There was confusion as to what exactly classed someone’s asthma as severe asthma and who should cocoon. It is not simply a description of how a patient’s symptoms feel to them, as some patients believe. This makes it challenging for patients to know if they should cocoon, and they need our support to make this important health decision.
“Asthma exists on a spectrum. Severe asthma is a more difficult to manage form of the condition. Severe asthma is recognised by doctors through categorising the type, strength and dose of medication prescribed patient requires to keep their asthma in control and whether they have needed hospital treatment within the past 12 months. It can take months or years to diagnose a patient with severe asthma, as doctors may try different treatments to manage it.”
For people whose asthma does not fall within the definition published on the Asthma Society website for severe asthma, the HSE has still recommended that they stay home where possible, practice physical or social distancing, wash their hands often and take every precaution to ensure their asthma is well controlled. It is essential that patients follow this advice for their own safety. People with asthma should visit asthma.ie for asthma management tips.
Dr. Dermot Nolan, Clinical Lead for Asthma for the ICPG, said: “There is no data to suggest that people with asthma are more likely to get Covid-19, but they may struggle more with the virus if they do contract it, so they must be extra vigilant. There is every need to ensure that they adhere to all HSE and Department of Health guidelines and take sufficient care at this crucial stage.
The vast majority of people with respiratory conditions can continue to get out for fresh air and exercise once a day, and even to work if necessary. If you are an essential healthcare worker, we recommend that you discuss your workplace exposure risk and your asthma-related risk of severe illness from covid-19 with your occupational health department and/or your regular asthma doctor, as the context for each worker is different.”
The Asthma Society has sourced additional hours and staff members for our Asthma and COPD Adviceline which is available for free on 1800 44 54 64 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To be able to continue this work, please text “asthma” to 50300 to donate €2 to the Asthma Society or go to asthma.ie to make a donation.