Claudia Calder looks at how asthma can be aggravated by COVID-19, how you should look after your wellbeing and what employers can do to support staff.

As we plan our return to work, one of the themes of concern from workers is about underlying medical conditions, specifically asthma. In this article, we address this concern by reviewing the latest scientific literature on asthma and COVID-19, and recommending what asthma sufferers can do to protect themselves, and how employers can mitigate the risks.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties. It can affect people of all ages, and often starts in childhood. There is currently no cure, however, there are simple treatments that can keep the symptoms under control so it does not have a big impact on life.

If you have asthma, what can you do to reduce the risk from COVID-19?

When people with asthma get respiratory infections, it can aggravate their symptoms, leading to an asthma attack.

The best action you can take is to follow these simple asthma management steps from Asthma UK:

  • Keep taking your preventer inhaler daily as prescribed
  • Carry your reliever inhaler with you every day
  • Use an asthma action plan to help you recognise and manage symptoms when they come on
  • Start a peak flow diary, if you have a peak flow. If you don’t, consider getting one from your GP or pharmacist
  • If you smoke it’s vital that you quit now, as smoking will increase your risk from COVID-19

Support your own wellbeing while staying home

It’s really important for everyone to take of our own wellbeing, even if you don’t have symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Try to keep active – do whatever physical activity you can manage, a walk around your local area or even your home, try an online yoga or exercise class. Break up the time that you spend sitting down, movement is the key
  • Look after your physical health – eat healthy meals, drink enough water and try not to increase your alcohol intake. If you smoke, now is a great time to stop as smoking increases the risk from COVID-19
  • Stay social – it is important to keep in touch with friends and family. Keep texting, phoning, emailing and getting in front of video!
  • Look after your mental health – lots of people are struggling with their mental health during this difficult time. If you are struggling with work, talk to your manager or colleagues. Your organisation probably has an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) which you can contact.

There is also lots of help available:

What can employers do?

As an employer, you have a duty of care to only bring back your staff to work, if it is safe to do so. If you have staff who are in the “at risk” category, talk to them and see how they are feeling about returning to work.

If they have concerns about conditions such as asthma, discuss the best way to bring them back to work. This might be a trial and error sort of situation, where you could trial working patterns, such as working in the office for a few hours, or a few days a week, with the remaining time working from home.

The important aspect is communication, you will get the best out of your staff if they are happy and healthy, the only way of finding whether they are, is by communicating with them.

For helping managing your return to work programme, our consultants are always open to hear from you. Contact us on the form below and let’s see how we can help you.

If they have concerns about conditions such as asthma, discuss the best way to bring them back to work. This might be a trial and error sort of situation, where you could trial working patterns, such as working in the office for a few hours, or a few days a week, with the remaining time working from home.

The important aspect is communication, you will get the best out of your staff if they are happy and healthy, the only way of finding whether they are, is by communicating with them.

For help managing your return to work programme, our consultants are always open to hear from you. Contact us on the form below and let’s see how we can help you.

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