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Asthma patients not at higher risk of Covid-19 complications, research suggests

Patients with asthma do not seem to be at risk from complications associated with being hospitalised with Covid-19 disease, in sharp contrast to other viral infections say French researchers. 

In a group of 768 patients hospitalised from March to April, 37 patients (4.8%) had asthma – a broadly similar proportion to the general population of the same age in France.

The patients were generally younger than non-asthmatic patients hospitalised for Covid-19 and far more likely to be female, the researchers reported in the European Respiratory Journal.

None of the patients with asthma experienced a severe asthma attack warranting specific treatment on admission to hospital and their asthma therapy was unchanged, supporting previous research that Covid-19 is less likely to exacerbate asthma than other respiratory viral infections, the researchers concluded.

There was also no evidence of increased illness or mortality among patients with asthma, the researchers concluded.

It follows UK data on those admitted to critical care that has suggested lower than expected rates of asthma and COPD in those severely ill with Covid-19.

The latest Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre report on Covid-19 in critical care found that up to the end of July, 1.2% of those severely ill in hospital had a severe underlying respiratory condition, compared with 5.1% seen in non-Covid viral pneumonia in recent years.

But it comes as a group of charities warn that in a survey of more than 8,000 patients with lung conditions, 34.5% were scared to go to their GP or A&E or didn’t want to be a ‘burden’ to the NHS during lockdown.

Asthma UK, the British Lung Foundation and The Taskforce for Lung Health are calling on the NHS to actively encourage patients to seek care.

The figures also showed that many patients – nearly two thirds – of people tried to deal with their condition getting worse on their own.

Speaking about the French research on asthma patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19, Dr Dermot Ryan, honorary clinical research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, stressed that the data was in a hospital population and so shouldn’t be interpreted as people with asthma bring at less risk.

He added that other factors have proved important. ‘Patients are more adherent to their meds, air pollution has been significantly reduced, and the opportunity to pick up other respiratory viruses is reduced because of lockdown.

‘Other factors may be keeping those with asthma out of hospital,’ he said.