Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Control your asthma during COVID-19 outbreak

Published:Wednesday | April 22, 2020 | 12:05 AMVanessa James/Gleaner Writer

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb in Jamaica, we are reminded of some of the symptoms associated with the virus. The most common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

From different reports, we are told that the lungs can be drastically affected during this pandemic once the virus is contracted. However, according to Dr Paul Scott, pulmonologist, consultant physician and lecturer in the Department of Medicine at The University of the West Indies, Mona, there are measures in place should persons fall into one of the three categories of positive coronavirus cases.

“If you were to get the coronavirus infection, remember you have different categories. There are some people who do not show any symptoms so they get it and they remain fine. We don’t know exactly how big that group is, but we know it exists,” Scott stated.

He explained that in the group that develops symptoms, majority of people show only mild symptoms, but are not ill enough for hospitalisation.

“[The] symptoms could include cough, the soreness in the throat, there might be shortness of breath and maybe some wheezing, but it’s not bad enough to make you require hospitalisation,” Scott said. “You will notice that if you did stuff, you are breathless than usual, and you also have a fever going on too.”

He said these symptoms will run its course and eventually breathing will start to improve, and over time, they will get over it. Scott said the smaller group of persons will, if they contract the coronavirus, require hospitalisation.

“The usual reason that they require hospitalisation [is that] the shortness of breath has become worse, so not only are they short of breath when they do things, even minor things, they are short of breath even when they are just sitting down,” Scott explained.

He further explained that often, these patients require oxygen to supplement their breathing, and those who eventually improve enough to be able to go home fall in the majority.

With shortness of breath and difficulty breathing being symptoms of coronavirus, Scott emphasised the importance of those with respiratory illnesses to try to stay as safe as possible, and to follow their doctors’ instructions fully.

“We tell our asthmatics that there are two phases: before you get the coronavirus, make sure your asthma is well controlled because just like any other illness that affects asthma, wherever you are, you get worse. So, if you are well controlled, then your getting worse might not be much, so you might actually be quite fine,” Scott explained. “But if you are already at a point where your asthma is very poorly controlled, then the coronavirus on top of it, affecting your lungs, you are likely to have a very serious deterioration and require hospitalisation.”

Scott shared other measures one can take if they are quarantined at home after contracting the coronavirus. He said for fever, Panadol, cold showers, and alcohol sponge can lower temperatures, and stressed the importance of keeping up with fluids, as dehydration is one of the reasons persons are admitted to the hospital. In addition to this, constant contact with your doctor is recommended, especially for those with underlying issues, in case adjustments to treatments need to be made.

vanessa.james@gleanerjm.com