National Lung Health Organizations: During Pandemic, Critical to Work with Doctor to Manage Lung Disease Symptoms, Get Tested for COVID-19 when Appropriate

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in disruptions to public life as well as to patient care and access to services. In response, the American Lung Association, American Thoracic Society and American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) issued the following statement:

“Protecting lung health is always important, especially for those living with a chronic lung disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) many people are at an increased risk for the most severe impacts of COVID-19, including those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung transplant or lung cancer. In addition, according to the CDC those with moderate to severe asthma might also be at an increased risk for the most severe impacts of COVID-19. Getting routine preventive care and managing care of chronic lung conditions is essential to health, especially during a pandemic. This includes getting recommended vaccines (influenza or “flu,” pneumococcal pneumonia, and COVID-19 when available) in discussion with your healthcare provider.

“For people living with a lung disease, managing their condition is critical to staying healthy and avoiding hospitalizations, especially during a pandemic when hospitals may be nearly full. Our organizations encourage patients to continue working closely with their healthcare provider to manage their health through medications, to receive preventative care and get recommended screenings for serious health conditions. Patients and providers may need to rely on phone calls, emails, interactions through patient portals and telehealth instead of an in-person visit. Healthcare providers will determine the best way to address care. To avoid several trips to the pharmacy, patients may ask their physicians for a 90-day supply of prescription medications, which some insurers allow. They can also use drive-thru pharmacies or prescriptions through mail, when possible, to optimize social distancing.

“Many patients may be wondering how to tell the difference between a chronic lung disease exacerbation and COVID-19. With lung diseases that make it difficult to breathe, it can be a challenge to discern if symptoms are related to a chronic lung disease or a new symptom related to COVID-19. Our organizations urge patients to work closely with their healthcare provider to manage their symptoms and get tested for COVID-19 as recommended by their doctors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, some underserved communities are struggling during the pandemic to access both routine care and COVID-19 testing. It is imperative that we continue to advocate for these patients, to ensure everyone has equal opportunity for health and wellness.

“In addition to working with a healthcare provider, people living with a lung disease should continue to practice public health safety measures such as maintaining a distance of six feet apart from other people, wearing a face mask, getting a flu shot, and thorough handwashing. There are many healthy practices to help manage lung disease. It is important to eat healthy food, get plenty of rest and exercise daily. For those who use tobacco, help is available to assist people as they attempt to quit smoking or vaping, which can help to protect the respiratory system.”

For more information, contact:

Elizabeth Cook
[email protected]

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