Corona Virus what does it mean for severe asthma?

Corona virus, COVID-19 or as I like to refer to it as “the virus” is the hot topic just now and rightly so especially as the World Health Organisation has just declared it to be a pandemic.

I have not posted anything on facebook, instagram, twitter or my blog about the virus because everywhere is saturated and there is a lot of different information about what to do and what is best. The only thing that is consistent is that hand washing is essential and that for the hand washing to be effective it must be 20 seconds minimum. There has been some fantastic stuff developed around songs that you can sing while washing your hands. This is a favourite: Bohemian Rhapsody (it is only half a routine so DO NOT use this to wash your hands)

stream_img

What does the virus mean for someone like me?

It is a very serious situation. The effect for me could be devastating. A basic chest infection is horrific and puts me in intensive care and that is a condition that has a treatment. This is a new virus that has no vaccine and no treatment. Should you get the virus the medics can support you and support the area of your body that is failing but otherwise you just have to fight it yourself. When you already fight each day to try and stay well this is an added extra that your body really does not need.

There are mixed messages going about for people with respiratory conditions. The issue with asthma is that it is so varied. For someone with mild controlled asthma the virus might not be that big an issue but I am immunocompromised due to long term oral steroids at fairly high doses and I pick up everything.

To be honest I am terrified. The last hospital admission was really hard and the recovery has been super hard. I have had to invest so much time and energy to get myself back on my feet and the thought of potentially having to do this again put the fear in me let alone to do that recovery plus having COVID-19 on top of it.

What steps am I taking to try and keep myself well?

I am just trying to be sensible but have taken a range of measures to try and protect myself apart from hand washing etc.

  • Withdrawn from speaking events including EyeforPharma in Barcelona, Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research Annual Scientific Meeting and various others. Both of which I am gutted about as was really looking forward to them.
  • Withdrawn from giving a lecture to nursing students at Edin Uni on Professionalism
  • Stopping coaching lacrosse in school
  • Have not been accepting invitation to attend events that are hospital based and any events that has been scheduled I have asked to call in remotely if possible especially if there is a large number of people attending
  • I have done all my shopping and meal prep so I don’t need to go to any supermarkets. i won’t have fresh fruit and veg but I have frozen fruit and veg so won’t miss out totally.
  • Finally the biggest one for me is that I am taking myself out of the city for a few weeks or for as long as needed. I am heading up north to my parents place which is in a small village away from any cities and in the countryside. This will minimise my contact with people and hopefully minimise my risk of catching the virus. I am concerned about getting ill when up north but it is safer to be away than staying in the city.

Its tough to know what to do for the best. With advice changing on a daily if not hourly basis everyone is in a state of flux constantly. We seem to have gone from panic buying toilet roll to panic buying everything that you would keep in a store cupboard.

One other thing I have been very conscious of and I have not mentioned is being in touch with your care team. I am taking the advice primarily from my respiratory consultant but then also my asthma nurse and GP as well. I need to consider what they suggest and listen to what they say over the next coming months more so than ever.

For anyone else who is in a situation with their health like I am I know it is a really difficult time. I am fortunate that I don’t have work to juggle as well as that would just be a whole new ball game. I think if I did still have a job I would be speaking to my managers and explaining my situation. On the whole from others who I have spoken to who have health conditions and work their bosses have been pretty accommodating and supportive. Oddly the thing I have been hearing most is that they wish their bosses or workmates would stop going on about how they have to be careful and or how they need to be aware of the news etc because of their situations and being immunocompromised etc. Many know they are just doing it because they care but even Ia have been getting irritated with people telling me to watch out and I don’t work just now and don’t see a huge number of people right now!!

For now we just need to keep up to date with the NHS advice and hope that things do not escalate.

I will continue to prepare for the worst and hope for the best as much as you can with an unknown situation.

One of the more unusual side effects of prednisilone

or at least we think it is. Otherwise it is just my body being weirder then it already is.

After over a decade of being on oral steroids I thought I had come across most of the side effects. I have not experienced all of them but have heard of them or at least I thought I had.

Prednisilone suppresses your immune system making you susceptible to anything and everything that is going. One of the big ones we get warned about is chicken pox and shingles. If we are ever in contact with someone who has them we need to get in touch with our medical team. Over the years I have had to do this a few times and received treatment to protect myself from getting either virus too. The treatment is not fun. It is injections of varicella zoster immunoglobulins which is essentially 10mls roughly of a vaseline type substance into your muscles. Then some acclovir as well if needed. Each time i also get a blood test to see if I have any immunity to either virus. My blood tests always come up negative meaning I have no antibodies to it. I have also had the shingles vaccine which is the odd part. Despite having the immunoglobulins and the vaccine I still have no anti bodies when I should.

I get questioned so often if I am sure that I have had chicken pox (my parents assure me I have my Drs on the other hand say that because my bloods say I havnt!!) then I also get the question if I actually had the vaccination to it. Sometimes I think people must think I am bizarre but it is my body just being odd and I do think it is due to the prednisilone. It does things to your body that you would never think a tiny wee white pill (or 8) could do. The benefits the drug has is that it keeps me alive but the side effects are unreal.

When studying for my nursing we all had to have the Hepatitis B vaccine which is a course of injections given over a period of time with a blood test to see if you have taken up the vaccine and then depending on that blood test a repeat course of the vaccine or a booster dose. Well after the first course and the blood test I was once again being questioned if I did actually have the injections- of course they knew I had the injections because the stickers off each syringe were in my notes but my blood test results were as though I had never received any injection. So I had a repeat course and another blood test. The result of that blood test was exactly the same as the first time so we decided we would leave it there, when I say exactly the same I mean 0.

After my recent experience with chicken pox and shingles I was thinking back. I ended up with flu after having the flu vaccine I think it was when it was swine flu (mainly coz I remember my mum visiting me in ICU dressed up in the mask, gown, gloves etc). All of these things have happened when I have been on long term oral prednisilone. I am not sure what my vaccine up take was like as a kid because you don’t really test to check a child has had a response to a vaccine, you just assume they do because they got the injection. I do want to speak to someone when I get the chance to ask about this because I am concerned that my body cannot fight like it used to, I just don’t have the physical strength so I really don’t want to be picking up something that I was immunised against as a child. I am hoping that these recent vaccines have not worked because of the prednisilone and not because of any other autoimmune thing that my body has.

I would be interested to hear from anyone that has had similar experience to me with vaccines and no uptake to them.