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Asthma: St John Ambulance explain how to help during attack

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Asthma affects 5.4 million people in the UK with someone having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack every 10 seconds. Asthma is a respiratory condition and therefore many sufferers are concerned about the impact on their health if they contract coronavirus. Now the Covid vaccine has been given to 15 million of Britain’s most vulnerable population, some asthma-sufferers are up next. But what exactly is severe asthma?

People whose asthma is under control will not be prioritised for the Covid vaccine according to the Government.

The vaccine rollout in England has now entered a second phase with more than 15 million having received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The first priority groups, including those aged 70 and over, the clinically extremely vulnerable and health and social care workers have now been invited to receive the first dose of the vaccine.

Now, letters will now be sent to those aged 65 and over, as well as those who have underlying health conditions aged 16 to 65 inviting them to receive the first dose of their vaccine.

Those deemed clinically extremely vulnerable include people who have:

  • Have had an organ transplant.
  • Are having chemotherapy or antibody treatment for cancer.
  • Are having an intense course of radiotherapy for lung cancer.
  • Have blood or bone marrow cancer, e.g. leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma.
  • Have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months or who are still taking immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Have cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, e.g. protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors.
  • Have severe respiratory conditions, cytotec induction success e.g. cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Have diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections, e.g. severe combined immunodeficiency and homozygous sickle cell disease.
  • Are on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase the risk of infection.
  • Have a problem with their spleen or their spleen has been removed.
  • Are an adult with Down’s syndrome.
  • Are an adult who is having dialysis or has severe (stage 5) long-term kidney disease.
  • Have a serious heart condition and are pregnant.
  • Anyone else classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on GPs’ judgement.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties.

Asthma can impact people of all ages, often beginning in childhood.

There is no cure for asthma, but there are many simple treatments which can help keep the symptoms under control.

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What is severe asthma?

Around one in four out of 100 people with asthma have severe asthma which equates to roughly 200,000 people.

Severe asthma is a debilitating form of the condition which does not respond to usual treatments and can cause people to be in and out of hospital.

Essentially, severe asthma is a specific type of asthma which does not get better with the usual medicines.

This means about 5.2 million asthma sufferers will not be invited to have the vaccine yet.

Sufferers of asthma will not be on the list ahead of their peers unless they are formally shielding, regularly take oral steroids or have ever had an emergency hospital admission.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it was following independent advice that the immediate priority should be to “prevent deaths and protect health and care staff, with old age deemed the single biggest factor determining mortality”.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “This prioritisation captures almost all preventable deaths from Covid-19.”

People with non-severe asthma are considered by the NHS to be at increased risk from coronavirus, but not at risk of dying from the virus.

Asthma has been linked to an increased risk of long Covid.

Long Covid includes a range of symptoms which can be experienced by people some weeks and months after the initial infection hits.

Anyone with the condition requiring a steroid inhaler or tablets will be offered a free annual flu jab, leading some people to question why they are being treated differently when it comes to Covid.

Asthma sufferers will be vaccinated in the sixth priority group, after the over-65s and frontline staff, if:

  • They have received a letter advising them to shield
  • They have ever had an emergency asthma admission
  • They have had three oral steroid prescriptions over a three month period.
  • You can see how much your asthma affects you each day using the Asthma Control Test (ACT) here.
  • A low score may mean you need additional help managing your asthma and therefore may be more likely to be invited to get the vaccine more quickly.

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