Here’s why your asthma symptoms might be easing - even amid the coronavirus crisis

Friday, 5th June 2020, 4:08 pm
Updated Friday, 5th June 2020, 4:08 pm
Have you felt your asthma symptoms getting better? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Have you felt your asthma symptoms getting better? (Photo: Shutterstock)

There has been a decrease in reports of asthma and other lung condition symptoms, a new survey has found.

At a time where a deadly respiratory virus is making the rounds, why is it that those with lung conditions have seemingly started to get better?

This is what you need to know.

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Improvements in health

A survey conducted by the British Lung Foundation of 14,000 people with lung conditions found that one in six had reported noticing improvements in their health.

Among the children included in the study, this figure was actually even higher, with one in five parents noting that their child’s condition had improved.

Specifically, asthma sufferers appeared to be benefiting the most, with one in four claiming they had experienced relief from their symptoms.

Why have symptoms gotten better?

The British Lung Foundation survey found that over 50 per cent of people with lung conditions claimed to have noticed a decrease in air pollution since the beginning of lockdown.

There is evidence that shows a correlation between air pollution and lung disease. With coronavirus effectively shutting down the world for weeks on end, there has been a huge dip in air pollution levels around the world.

Car engines, power plants and other industrial processes produce the chemical compound nitrogen dioxide, which is thought to worsen respiratory illnesses such as asthma.

Paul Monks, a professor of air pollution at the University of Leicester, told The Guardian, “We are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest scale experiment we’ve ever seen.

“Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low carbon economy? Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible. To see what can be achieved.”

Monks, who was the former chair of the UK government’s science advisory committee on air quality, explained that the reduction of air pollution could bring health benefits.

“It seems entirely probably that a reduction in air pollution will be beneficial to people in susceptible categories, for example some asthma sufferers,” he said.

What happens next?

Zak Bond, of the British Lung Foundation, said, “Now, more than ever before, we have all become aware of how important it is to look after our lungs, and the government has a duty to ensure that as the country recovers from Covid-19, we can continue to keep air pollution levels down and keep pushing them lower.”

A cross party group of MPs said that air pollution must be kept at low levels to help avoid a second wave of infections of the virus.

Bond said that there needs to be a rapid introduction of clean air zones in cities, where monetary fees deter the use of the worst polluting vehicles - but these zones have been delayed in some areas as the focus remains on the coronavirus response.

“We want to see the government commit to reaching the World Health Organization's guidelines for fine particulate matter by 2030 at the latest,” Bond added.

Stephen Holgate, Medical Research Council clinical professor of immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton, said, “As one of the biggest health problems of our time, air pollution has the potential to harm everyone.

“It is so important we take this opportunity to recognise the lived experiences of people with lung conditions and apply what we have learned from the impact of lockdown to build a future where we prioritise clean air.”