After the Covid-19 restrictions Adults with asthma in the UK were twice as likely to have a severe asthma attack, according to a new study.
Episodes of progressively worsening asthma symptoms, called exacerbations or asthma attacks, are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the condition. Asthma affects over 5 million people in the UK and over 300 million worldwide. Symptoms include shortness of breath and a tight feeling in the chest, as well as wheezing and coughing.
Research published in Thorax and presented at the British Thoracic Society meeting found an increased risk of these attacks following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions. As restrictions were lifted, fewer people wore face masks and social mixing increased, resulting in an increased risk of contracting Covid-19 and other acute respiratory infections. The study also showed that Covid-19 did not significantly make asthma attacks more likely than other respiratory infections.
In April 2021, when restrictions on social mixing and the need to cover the face began to be eased, 1.7 percent of participants reported having had a severe asthma attack in the previous month. In January 2022, this share more than doubled and rose to 3.7 percent.
The study analyzed data from 2,312 British adults with asthma who took part in the Queen Mary’s COVIDENCE UK study between November 2020 and April 2022. Detailed information on face covering use, social mixing, and asthma symptoms were collected using monthly online questionnaires.
Professor Adrian Martineaulead author of the study and clinical professor of respiratory infections and immunity at Queen Mary University of London, said: “This study 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 consequence. But our findings raise the possibility that certain elements of public health measures introduced during the pandemic — such as the use of face masks — could help reduce respiratory disease going forward.”
Dr Florence Tydemanfirst author of the paper, added: “It is also encouraging to see that Covid-19 did not make asthma attacks significantly more likely than other respiratory infections in our study participants.”
The study is the first to compare the effect of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections on the risk of asthma exacerbation. And it’s one of the few studies looking at the effects of lifting national restrictions on people with asthma.