Managing your condition

It's important to continue accessing your usual healthcare to manage your lung condition during COVID-19. Utilise the telehealth and medicine delivery services available during this time and learn how to best manage your condition through winter.

Key advice

  • Don’t stop taking your medication unless advised by your treating doctor.
  • Make sure you have an adequate supply of your daily and emergency medications.
  • Check the dates of your prescriptions to ensure they are current.
  • Call your doctor and make sure you are on the correct treatment and ask them to check your inhaler technique so you can be confident that you are correctly receiving your medication.
  • If you require medical attention, ensure you take all medication with you if you are required to attend the hospital or your GP practice.
  • If you have COVID-19 or are suspected of having COVID-19, consider  where you can use the nebuliser or perform airway clearance techniques to minimise exposure of the non-infected members of your household.

Utilise delivery services

Another part of the Australian Government’s response to COVID-19 includes the ability to order medication online for home delivery. This service is available for people at higher risk of serious infection, including people with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised. The service is available from any pharmacy approved to dispense and supply Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medications. Contact your pharmacist for more information.

Connecting with your treating healthcare team

As part of the Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are now able to access health services via telephone and video calling apps and software such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Duo and GoToMeeting. This will allow consumers to access health services in their homes to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19. These services will only be provided where appropriate and clinically safe.

Telehealth services will be provided until September 30 2020, unless advised otherwise.

Eligible patients should ask their treating healthcare team about their telehealth options, and discuss the eligibility criteria to be bulk billed for these options.

What to have at home 

  • An up-to-date Action Plan developed with your treating doctor to help you recognise when symptoms of your condition worsen and steps to manage them.  If you don’t have an action plan, download a template and organise an appointment with your doctor to work through it:  
  • An adequate supply of in-date medication – consult with your pharmacist.  According to Medicines Australia, there is an adequate supply of medications in Australia to meet community needs, so there is no need to stockpile. Any potential issues relating to supply of essential medications will be addressed if they arise.  
  • Have current prescriptions for your regular medications on hand.  
  • If you require oxygen cylinders to manage your condition, contact your supplier and ask them to inform you of their supply and create a plan to continue to deliver oxygen to you during this time.  
  • Supplies to keep your hands (i.e. soap, alcohol-based hand sanitiser) and home clean (i.e. disinfectant, cleaning cloths).   
  • Take note of other medical supplies you may need such as contact lenses, contact solution, hearing-aid batteries and over-the-counter medicines like pain relief.  

COPD, Bronchiectasis and Asthma

People living with asthma, bronchiectasis and/or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are advised to continue to use their prescribed medications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You may have heard that “corticosteroids” should be avoided during the COVID-19 outbreak, however, this information is referring to the non-indicated use of oral corticosteroids. All patients who are prescribed regular inhaled corticosteroid medications (known as preventers) and/or long-term oral corticosteroids should continue to take their medication unless advised otherwise by their doctor. Stopping any inhaled asthma or COPD medication suddenly may lead to a worsening of your symptoms or a flare-up in your condition. If you are on long-term oral corticosteroid medications (tablets) you should not suddenly stop this medication. Only ever stop or reduce any medication doses under direct instruction for your treating healthcare team or GP.

If your symptoms worsen, follow your written asthma or COPD action plan. If you do not have one, or your plan is not up-to date, consult with your doctor.

Airway Clearance – Nebuliser

COVID-19 is able to be spread to others via droplets exhaled by a person is infectious, usually through coughing or sneezing or breathing in close proximity to another person.  Therefore infection control guidelines include staying 1.5 metres away from others and effectively covering coughs or sneezes.  However, when you live with a lung condition some of the management aspects or treatment delivery can also produce droplets from your exhaled breath that stay in the air, including airway clearance techniques or using a nebulizer.

If you have COVID-19 or are suspected of having COVID-19 and you normally use airway clearance techniques or devices, or a nebuliser machine at home, you need to attempt to minimise exposure of the non-infected members of the household. Possibly consider moving to a safe, outside area in your home in a place where surfaces may be easier to clean (or where there are few surfaces to clean). Nebulisers and airway clearance techniques may increase the amount droplets in the air, and thereby increasing the risk of transmission to others.

Spacer technique

Using a spacer with your puffer to help improve delivery of the medication into your airways is critical to ensure you get the most benefit from your medication.

Why should I use a spacer? 

Spacers help the medication to get down into your lungs where it is needed.  Using a spacer also helps to reduce the medication landing in your throat and mouth. A puffer and spacer is also less challenging to use than a puffer alone because you don’t have to co-ordinate pressing down on the puffer and breathing in. Spacers are especially useful if you have trouble taking in one big breath and holding your breath. If you use a spacer with your puffer, you can use the four breathe technique, breathing in and out gently on the spacer which you may find easier. 

How do I clean my spacer? 

A spacer should be cleaned every 2-4 weeks and following a cold/flu. To clean your spacer: 

  • Pull it apart where possible 
  • Wash it in warm soapy water and allow it to drip-dry; do not rinse it or dry it with a cloth, as this can result in static build up inside of the spacer 
  • Put the spacer back together again once it is completely dry. 

New spacers (e.g. Able Spacer Universal, Breath-A-Tech, Volumatic) need to be washed before you use them for the first time. Spacers made from antistatic polymers (e.g. Able A2A, AeroChamber Plus, Breathe Eazy, La Petite E-Chamber, La Grande E-Chamber, OptiChamber Diamond) do not need to be washed before first use, nor do disposable cardboard spacers.