A major study published in the journal Thorax shows that children and adults with mild or well controlled asthma are not at an increased risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. The study is the first output to come out of the recently announced partnership between the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and BREATHE.
Comprehensive data linkage
Conducted by a team of experts from the ONS, the University of Edinburgh and Imperial College London, the study is the biggest of its kind to examine the relationship between asthma and COVID-19.
Anonymised information from the 2011 census of England was combined with data from general practices, hospital statistics and registered deaths between January 2020 and September 2021, and includes data from almost 80% of adults and more than 75% of 12-17-year-olds in England.
COVID-19 severity linked to asthma severity
In adults, they found that people who were prescribed a low-dose steroid inhaler for asthma were no more likely to be hospitalised or die with COVID-19 than people who do not have asthma. However, adults who were taking a medium- or high-dose steroid inhaler were around 50% more likely to need hospital treatment for COVID-19, compared to those without asthma. They were also more likely to die of COVID-19.
Among children aged 12-17, the risk of hospitalisation due to COVID-19 was more than doubled in those who had been prescribed a course of oral steroids for asthma, and this risk was three to four times higher for children who had been prescribed two or more courses.
Professor Jennifer Quint, study author, BREATHE Deputy Director and Lead for Real World Evidence said:
Since the pandemic began, there have been several studies looking at the risks of COVID-19 for people with asthma, but the findings have not always been clear or consistent. Research like ours, that uses large amounts of data, can help unpick any patterns of risk.
We’ve found that in children and adults with asthma that is mild or well-controlled with low-dose medication there is no greater risk than in people without asthma. But adults and children with severe or poorly controlled asthma are more likely to need hospital treatment, and in adults there is an increased risk of COVID-19-related death.
Understanding these differences will be important to help people with asthma while COVID-19 persists around the world.
Read the paper on Thorax's website
Click to learn more about the BREATHE-ONS partnership