Coronavirus: what to do if you live with a lung condition

You might have heard about the recent coronavirus outbreak. Our medical director, Nick Hopkinson, explains how to protect yourself from this and other viruses.

A new type of coronavirus has appeared in China and has now spread to some other countries. The risk of you getting the illness in the UK at the moment is low, but this may change depending on how it spreads. For the most up to date information, visit Public Health England.

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to flu: a cough, a high temperature and feeling short of breath.

If you have these symptoms, and you’ve travelled in the last 2 weeks from China or another high-risk area or if you’ve been in contact with someone who has, call NHS 111 for advice.

For the most up to date information, keep an eye on updates from Public Health England as well as reading guidance from the NHS

The main practical thing at the moment is to carry on taking the usual sensible steps to reduce your risk of picking up infections.

The best way to avoid viruses

If you live with a long-term lung condition, you’ll know it’s a good idea to avoid getting any sort of virus, including flu.

It’s important to keep your hands clean to stop the virus spreading:

  • wash your hands regularly or use a hand sanitiser gel if you’re out and about. 
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and encourage other people around you to do the same. 
  • cough into your elbow or the crook of your arm to reduce the spread of germs and throw away used tissues as soon as you can.

Make sure you have a flu jab every year and the one-off pneumonia jab.    

If you smoke it’s important to quit. People who smoke are five times as likely to get flu.

It’s also important that you know the signs of an exacerbation or flare-up in your condition and have a plan in place about what to do.  Take a look at our information on COPD and bronchiectasis flare-ups and the Asthma UK action plan.

Should I use a facemask?

We do not recommend using a facemask to protect yourself as there isn’t enough evidence to show how effective they are. Also, for people living with a lung condition wearing a facemask can make breathing more difficult.

For the most up to date information and guidance visit Public Health England and the NHS.

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5 February 2020