Asthma visits to sturgeon emergencies drop dramatically in 2020: AHS
The poor presentation of asthma in emergency departments during the pandemic can be attributed to everything from fear to medication adherence, blockages and masking, according to medical professionals.
The number of asthma presentations at Sturgeon Community Hospital dropped dramatically last year compared to previous years.
âOverall, asthma has probably been managed a little better during the pandemic, for several reasons,â said Dr. Alan Kaplan, family physician, chair of the Family Physician Airways Group of Canada and member of the medical committee and Asthma Canada Scientist. Consultative Committee.
Kaplan and other medical professionals have said that the poor presentation of asthma in emergency departments during the pandemic can be attributed to everything from fear to medication adherence, blockages and masking.
Figures from Alberta Health Services show 195 people requested asthma inpatient services at Sturgeon Hospital for the fiscal year April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021; compared to 319 for the 2019 to 2020 financial year; and 290 for the 2018 to 2019 fiscal year.
Dr Jaled Yehya, owner of Alliance Respiratory Consultants in St. Albert, said his clinic takes care of everything from inpatients to consultations to emergencies.
He said that while the AHS numbers focus primarily on the emergency department, he doesn’t expect those numbers to be much different from those for acute care clinics.
He said there are many reasons for the low numbers last year, and situations vary depending on the stage of the pandemic.
At the onset of the pandemic, there were concerns that people with lung diseases such as asthma would face a higher risk of a more unfavorable COVID-19 outcome.
The patients took their medications regularly; they religiously followed the recommendations.
“It’s kind of an anxiety episode where, if they didn’t take the drugs regularly, the outcome could be worse than if they took them regularly,” he explained.
Kaplan also believes fear is the main reason asthma was better managed during the pandemic.
âI think people were a little more scared of the virus and therefore a little more sticking to their medications,â Kaplan said.
Yehya said that the lower number of asthma presentations in hospitals is also due to avoidance of hospitals amid fears of being exposed to COVID.
As time has passed, these numbers have remained low.
âPeople with asthma begin to decrease their exacerbations, or flare-ups, simply because they continue to comply or adhere to treatment. But also, respiratory infections have significantly decreased, âYehya said.
According to the Government of Canada’s FluWatch report, there was no evidence of community circulation of influenza during the usual influenza season.
âViral infections were significantly zero during COVID-19. So we’re starting to see less and less (of patients) in the ER, âYehya said.
The pediatric population also had a decrease in the incidence of asthma. Yehya doesn’t see too many pediatric patients, but he does see teachers and people who work in daycares.
Locks and masking have significantly prevented the risk between infections, he said. Masking helped prevent respiratory infections throughout the pandemic, but masks also had the added benefit of protecting people from allergy triggers.
âLet’s say if you have someone who has an allergic component, let’s say you go to a mall and (it’s) precipitated by significant scents or smells or some sort of exposure. So hopefully the mask minimizes some of those particles that get into your lungs and exacerbate some of your symptoms.
âSo, we assume that this kind of protection can help control some of the symptoms,â Yehya explained.
Kaplan said distancing and masking tended to decrease virus transmission, thereby reducing exacerbations.
âPeople weren’t as uncomfortable with their asthma because they didn’t have viral infection triggers. Even for the inhalant triggers – things like grasses, trees, and everything in between – wearing a mask tends to filter out some of those things, âKaplan said.
Yehya and Kaplan both said one of the biggest things to come out of the pandemic was virtual care. Both have used virtual care in their practices and both have found benefits for themselves and their patients.
Yehya said he hopes people will continue to be careful about their health and continue to follow recommendations as we emerge from the pandemic.
Kaplan has some recommendations for people with asthma as fall approaches.
“Vaccination first (and) continue to wash your hands.” Until we’re pretty sure, I think the masks in group settings will probably still make sense. But it’s probably going to be difficult to continue, âKaplan said.