Managing your condition

It's important to continue accessing your usual healthcare to manage your lung condition during COVID-19. Having a clear plan in place will help you to stay as well as possible and feel in control if you experience an exacerbation or change in your symptoms, or if you're exposed to COVID-19.

Key advice to help you live well

  • Continue to use your prescribed medication and treatment unless advised by your treating healthcare team.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.

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.  

Connecting with your treating healthcare team

It’s important that you continue your regular appointment with your healthcare team to manage your condition  well. If you can’t access them face-to-face you can choose to access your usual health services via telephone and video call. This mean you can connect with your healthcare team from your home to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19. These services will only be provided where appropriate and clinically safe.

Speak to your treating healthcare team about their telehealth options, and discuss the eligibility criteria to be bulk billed for these options. Hear more from A/Prof Lucy Morgan, respiratory specialist and Lung Foundation Australia Chair in the video.

Preparing to contract COVID-19

It’s inevitable that most Australians will contract COVID-19. When you have a lung condition, that can feel frightening. But, A/Prof Morgan says developing a ‘COVID action plan’ can help ensure you and your loved ones know what steps to take if you do catch COVID-19, and ensure you have things on hand to help you during that time.

Planning ahead can help you to feel as prepared as possible and confident in what you need to do if you do catch the virus. Hear more from A/Prof Lucy Morgan about developing a COVID-19 action plan in the video below.

Testing positive to COVID-19

For someone who lives with a lung disease or lung cancer, finding out you have COVID-19 may be frightening. While people with a pre-existing condition are at increased risk of a more severe case of COVID-19, it doesn’t automatically mean you’ll become seriously unwell. Developing a COVID-19 action plan will ensure you feel as prepared as possible in the event that you contract COVID-19 and will help you to identify if your symptoms are manageable at home or if you need to seek medical advice. We sat down with A/Prof Lucy Morgan to get her expert advice on what to do if you have a lung disease or lung cancer and catch COVID-19.

Antivirals for treating COVID-19

Antiviral treatment for COVID-19 works by slowing or stopping the virus replicating, which may help to reduce the severity of the infection. This is particularly important for certain groups within the community who are at increased risk of severe infection from COVID-19. Vaccination still remains the most effective way to help prevent COVID-19, but oral antiviral treatments are available as a second line of defence for people who are:

  • 65 years and older with two additional high-risk factors for developing for severe disease
  • 75 years and older with one additional high-risk factors for developing for severe disease
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, who are 50 years of age or older with two additional high-risk factors for developing for severe disease
  • moderately or severely immunocompromised.

Those who are eligible will be able to receive treatment for COVID-19 in their own homes, without the need to travel to hospital for treatment as an inpatient. It is critical to test early if you suspect you have COVID-19 as antiviral treatment should be taken as soon as possible after infection is confirmed, and it must be commenced within 5 days of symptoms starting. Starting the treatments as soon as possible after the diagnosis, will help to achieve the best outcome.

Even though these new medications will not be suitable for everyone, speak to your GP or respiratory specialist, as your doctor will carefully check if they are safe for you by assessing other medicines you take and health conditions you might have. You could also ask your GP or specialist about the best way to organise an urgent appointment to obtain a script for antivirals if they are right for you should you need them. This can help you to develop a plan ahead of time and feel more prepared.

Treatments and medications for your lung condition

Continue to use your prescribed medication and treatment unless advised by your treating healthcare team.

Nebuliser

COVID-19 is able to be spread to others via droplets exhaled by a person who 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 nebuliser.

Airway clearance

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.

Mental health

In these times of uncertainty and with so much change to our everyday lives, it is normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed, especially if you are living with a lung condition. As case numbers continue to grow in Australia, the sense of isolation and fear can be difficult to process. You may be choosing to limit your social interaction to keep yourself safe, determined to maintain as much ‘normality’ as possible, or worrying about the effects of contracting COVID-19. Whatever your situation, it’s common to experience anxiousness, vulnerability and a lose of confidence.

There are strategies and practices you can put in place in your day-to-day life to help you manage these feelings and focus on the things you can control. These may include:

  • Schedule a virtual catch up with family and friends who encourage and support you
  • Make time each day to do something you enjoy such as reading, cooking, listening to music or going for a walk
  • Complete a mindfulness or self-compassion guided practice

We’ve developed a range of information and resources to support you during this time including blogs, webinars and videos. Visit our Mind Matters mental health hub to find out more.

Keeping active

It’s important to manage your lung condition and stay healthy during COVID-19 to avoid unnecessary visits to the hospital. Research has shown that exercising is highly beneficial for people living with a chronic lung disease. While you might not be able to go to the gym or your local pool, or attend a pulmonary exercise program at the moment, it’s still really important to keep your body moving and maintain your exercise habits.

There are lots of ways you can fit simple exercises into your daily routine without even realising you’re working out. With some support and guidance, goal setting and regular scheduling, it is possible to participate in an exercise program without leaving your home. Before starting a home exercise program, ensure you have consulted with your GP or a qualified exercise professional. Many health professionals are now offering telehealth appointments – so you can consult with them via the telephone or a video call.

Our at-home exercise series, led by an exercise physiologist, was developed to help you keep moving during this time. The Maintaining Movement series will take you step-by-step through simple exercises that can be completed at home with objects found around the house. Before commencing any exercise please consult your practicing healthcare team and read our Exercise Safety Guidelines.