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Relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions doubled risk of severe asthma attacks

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Small child using his inhaler device for asthma
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By Alice Clifford via SWNS

The relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions doubled the risk of severe asthma attacks, reveals a new study.

With less people wearing facemasks and an increase in social mixing, people became not just more vulnerable to COVID-19, but to other respiratory infections.

The results show that measures such as wearing facemasks could prevent asthma attacks and other illnesses in the future.

The study, published in the journal Thorax, analyzed data from 2,312 UK adults with asthma. The information was collected between November 2020 and April 2022.

In April 2021, when COVID-19 restrictions started to relax, 1.7 percent of participants reported having a severe asthma attack in the previous month.

Yet in January 2022, when COVID-19 restrictions were even less, this number more than doubled, going up to 3.7 percent.

To find these results, each participant answered monthly questionnaires about face covering use, social mixing, and their asthma symptoms.

Episodes of progressive worsening of asthma symptoms, such as asthma attacks, are the major cause of illness and death in people with this condition.

Asthma affects more than five million people in the UK and more than 300 million globally.

Symptoms include breathlessness, chest tightness, wheezing and coughing.

Professor Adrian Martineau, clinical professor of respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London, and lead author of the study, said: “This research shows that relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions coincided with an increased risk of severe asthma attacks.

“Our study was observational, so it can’t prove cause-and-effect. But our findings do raise the possibility that certain elements of the public health measures introduced during the pandemic – such as wearing facemasks - could help in reducing respiratory illnesses moving forward.”

Dr. Florence Tydeman, a research associate in medical statistics at King’s College London, and author of the study, added: “It is also reassuring to see that COVID-19 was not significantly more likely to trigger asthma attacks than other respiratory infections in our study participants.”

The study is the first to compare the influence of COVID-19 versus other respiratory infections on risk of asthma attacks.

It is one of few studies that looks at the impact of lifting national restrictions on people with asthma.

The findings will be presented at the British Thoracic Society Winter Meeting.

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