FRIDAY, Nov. 25, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- When COVID-19 restrictions lifted in the United Kingdom, the risk for severe asthma attacks doubled.
While having COVID isn't more likely to cause asthma attacks than other respiratory infections, it may have been that safety measures, such as wearing masks and reduced socializing, kept these attacks at bay, the authors of a new study suggested.
"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 face masks -- could help in reducing respiratory illnesses moving forward," study lead author Adrian Martineau said in a news release from Queen Mary University of London. He is a clinical professor of respiratory infection and immunity at the university.
The researchers studied the data from more than 2,300 adults with asthma who participated in the university's COVIDENCE UK study between November 2020 and April 2022. The participants answered a monthly online questionnaire that asked about face covering use, social mixing and asthma symptoms.
COVID restrictions were imposed in the spring of 2020. In April 2021, social mixing restrictions and the need for face coverings started relaxing in the U.K.
When restrictions were lifted, fewer people wore face coverings. They were more likely to mix socially. The study found that people subsequently had a higher risk of COVID and other acute respiratory infections.
"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," said study co-author Florence Tydeman, noting some of the other results. At the time of the study, she was a statistician and epidemiologist at the university.
In their answers in April 2021, less than 2% of study participants said they had a severe asthma attack during the previous month.
By January 2022, nearly 4% had a severe attack in the past month.
More than 300 million people around the world have asthma, with symptoms that include breathlessness, chest tightness, wheezing and coughing.
The findings were published recently in the journal Thorax. They also were presented Nov. 23 at the British Thoracic Society meeting.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on asthma.
SOURCE: Queen Mary University of London, news release, Nov. 23, 2022