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Don't Cut Back on Asthma Meds During Pandemic, Expert Advises

SUNDAY, April 19, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Despite increased demand for inhalers in some parts of the United States, Americans with asthma shouldn't ration their medications during the coronavirus pandemic, the American Lung Association says.

Rescue inhalers are in short supply in some areas because hospitals are giving albuterol to COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms to help them breathe, the group explained. Albuterol is a quick-relief medication used to treat shortness of breath and wheezing in people with asthma and some other lung disorders.

"The American Lung Association advises patients with asthma not to ration medications," said the association's chief medical officer, Dr. Albert Rizzo. "If you are running low on a prescription, speak with your health care provider about your options so you can take your medication as prescribed."

Patients might want to ask their doctor if switching medications would help with availability and/or lower costs, he said in an association news release.

"Consider alternative devices such as nebulizers," Rizzo advised. "Dosages are different among brands, so do not switch without discussing with your health care provider."

Good control of asthma is crucial in preventing infections and complications, he emphasized.

"Any viral infection can lead to a worsening of asthma symptoms, so patients with asthma and particularly those with moderate to severe asthma are at a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19," Rizzo said.

Controlling your asthma may reduce your risk for severe complications from COVID-19, he added.

People with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to the virus, but Rizzo emphasized that albuterol or quick relief (rescue) inhalers do not suppress the immune system, as some people erroneously think.

"You can and should continue to use your rescue inhaler as needed for asthma symptoms," he advised.

Rizzo pointed out that communicating with your health care provider is key, and a telehealth consultation from home is a good option for those with asthma or other underlying health conditions.

"Finally, rigorously follow the CDC recommendations to reduce your risk of getting COVID-19, including social distancing: stay home, avoid others, and thoroughly and frequently wash your hands," he said.

More information

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has more on asthma and the coronavirus.

SOURCE: American Lung Association, news release, April 15, 2020

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