Background The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on people with asthma is poorly understood. We hypothesised that lockdown restrictions were associated with reductions in severe asthma exacerbations requiring emergency asthma admissions and/or leading to death.
Methods Using data from Public Health Scotland and the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage Databank in Wales, we compared weekly counts of emergency admissions and deaths due to asthma over the first 18 weeks in 2020 with the national averages over 2015–2019. We modelled the impact of instigating lockdown on these outcomes using interrupted time-series analysis. Using fixed-effect meta-analysis, we derived pooled estimates of the overall changes in trends across the two nations. We also investigated trends in asthma-related primary care prescribing and emergency department (ED) attendances in Wales.
Results Lockdown was associated with a 36% pooled reduction in emergency admissions for asthma (incidence rate ratio, IRR: 0.64, 95% CI: 0.49 to 0.83, p value 0.001) across both countries. There was no significant change in asthma deaths (pooled IRR: 0.57, 95% CI: 0.17 to 1.94, p value 0.37). ED asthma attendances in Wales declined during lockdown (IRR: 0.85, 95% CI: 0.73 to 0.99, p value 0.03). A large spike of 121% more inhaled corticosteroids and 133% more oral corticosteroid prescriptions was seen in Wales in the week before lockdown.
Conclusions National lockdowns were associated with substantial reductions in severe asthma exacerbations leading to hospital admission across both Scotland and Wales, with no corresponding increase in asthma deaths.
- asthma epidemiology
Data availability statement
The anonymised person-level data used in this study are held by Public Health Scotland (PHS) and the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank and are restricted and not publicly available but can be accessed upon reasonable requests from PHS and SAIL. All proposals to use SAIL are carefully reviewed by an independent Information Governance Review Panel to ensure proper and appropriate use of data (https://www.saildatabank.com/application-process). When approved, access is then provided through the SAIL Gateway, a privacy-protecting safe haven and a secure remote access system.
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