Key Advice

The following advice, from leading respiratory experts, is for people living with lung disease and lung cancer. You may be feeling anxious and concerned about how to best minimise your risk of contracting the virus, the following information aims to inform and empower you to make appropriate and timely health decisions at this time.

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Lung Foundation Australia strongly supports the new social distancing restrictions announced by the Federal Government on 29 March 2020. Under the new restrictions people over 70, or over 60 living with a pre-existing condition, or indigenous people aged over 50 are to stay home wherever possible for their own protection.

Now is the time to prioritise your health and practice social distancing precautions. To help with these measures, home delivery of medication and groceries are either available now or launching soon to support priority Australians. Visit the following links for the most up-to-date information on these services.

Helpful links:

If these services are not yet available in your region, contact family and friends to see if they help by purchasing essential supplies on your behalf during this time.
To stay up-to-date with the latest announcements and for other resources, download the Australian Government Coronavirus App. Available through the Apple apps store and Google Play.

Living with a lung condition and working

We encourage all Australians living with a lung condition to prioritise their health at this time. If you are living with a lung condition and are unable to work from home, speak with your employer about the measures that are being put in place to protect employees. Visit Safe Work Australia website for advice for workers, along with information for employers and preparing workplaces.

Connecting with your treating healthcare team

Take the time to speak to your treating healthcare team about reasonable precautions you can take to minimise your risk of exposure to COVID-19, as they are best-placed to provide advice specific to your condition. To enable you to effectively manage your overall health and to minimise your risk of exposure, the Department of Health has announced bulk-billed telephone consultation services which can be provided by your GP. This is available for people who are considered vulnerable to risk of serious infection. 

This service is available for people who are: 

  • At least 70 years old 
  • At least 50 years old and of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent 
  • Pregnant women 
  • A parent of a child under 12 months 
  • Already under treatment for chronic health conditions or are immune compromised 
  • A person diagnosed with COVID-19 virus but who is not a patient of a hospital 
  • A person required to isolate themselves in quarantine in accordance with home isolation guidance issued by Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. 

For more information about the service, please contact your GP. 

Action Plans

Ensure you have an Action Plan developed with your treating doctor to help you recognise when symptoms worsen and how to take action to manage them. If your Action Plan is not up-to-date or you do not have a written plan, speak with your doctor.

Download an action plan template and organise an appointment with your doctor, so you have clear written instructions on how to reduce or prevent a flare-up in your symptoms.

To effectively follow the instructions on your Action Plan, ensure you have the necessary prescriptions from your doctor and adequate supply of in-date medication.

Who should wear a facemask?

You don’t need to wear a mask if you are healthy. While the use of surgical masks can help to prevent transmission of disease from infected patients to others, masks are not currently recommended for use by healthy members of the public for the prevention of infections like COVID-19.

Wearing a facemask can make breathing more difficult. If you are living with a lung disease or lung cancer, seek advice from your treating doctor regarding the use of facemasks in minimising the risk of exposure.

Tips from a person living with a lung condition

The following tips have been provided by Michelle, Chair of the Bronchiectasis Consumer Committee. 

With COVID-19 known to have a greater affect/impact on the immune compromised and respiratory comprised community, I have taken the advice only of medical sources rather than media hype.

This includes:

  • Having greater awareness and being diligent with washing hands more often, particularly when visiting public areas (not only for eating and bathroom use). This might include encouraging your family members do the same, particularly when they’re out and about, so they’re not bringing home potential infections
  • Using bacteria grade hand sanitisers
  • Limiting unnecessary visits to large public areas, eg: movies, travel for work or social gatherings. It’s best just to keep it for a later date
  • Limiting contact with people who are unwell to avoid putting yourself at risk. Don’t be afraid to postpone events or ask people to keep their distance. I’m lucky that my community are always very mindful
  • Keeping up medications and having an Action Plan in place
  • Drinking lots of water, eating a healthy diet and not being afraid to rest when you need to
  • Mostly not panicking, stressing and overthinking as these can also weaken your immunity and increase breathing stress and strains in the body.

Home Medication Services

Online medication delivery is now available for people at higher risk of serious infection who wish to limit their potential exposure to COVID-19 in the community. This service is available to a range of people including those living with chronic health conditions, are immunocompromised or are on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines. Speak with your pharmacist to discuss your eligibility.

Residential Aged Care Facilities 

If you live in an aged care facility additional measures, such as restrictions on entry and visitors and an increase in hygiene practices, are likely to already be in place. If you do have a visitor, the following is recommended:  

  • Anyone who is unwell, who has returned from overseas in the last 14 days or who has been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, should not visit at this time 
  • Visitors are limited to two a day – these may be immediate social supports (family members, friends) or professional services 
  • Visits are limited to a short duration 
  • Visits should be conducted in a resident’s room or outdoors, rather than communal areas where the risk of transmission to residents is greater 
  • Children should avoid visiting at this time   
  • Visitors should also be encouraged to practice social distancing practices where possible, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres  
  • Large gatherings, including social activities or entertainment, should also be avoided at this time. 

Have a plan if you get sick

Consult with your treating healthcare team for more information about monitoring your health during this time. If you develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 contact the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 and clearly explain you have a pre-existing lung condition. If you become sick due to a flare-up of symptoms or COVID-19, seek help and support from friends, family, neighbours and community health workers. If you caregiver gets sick or is self-isolating, determine who can care for you or help with daily tasks – it might be a good idea to start considering other alternatives early.

Misinformation Alert: ‘Rescue packs’ for patients with asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

We has been made aware of some inaccurate information circulating social media regarding “rescue packs” to be provided to people with asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This scheme is not available in Australia and people living with asthma or COPD unfortunately cannot receive a pack from a pharmacy, GP or hospital at this point. 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, please consult your doctor as soon as possible.

If you or a loved one have asthma or COPD, please remember:

  • If you need more daily or ‘flare-up’ medicines please contact your treating doctor rather than visiting a hospital for medication
  • Check the dates of your scripts to ensure they are current
  • If you’re symptoms worsen please follow the advice on your asthma or COPD action plan. If you do not have one, or your plan is not up-to date, consult please your treating doctor
  • You can book a telephone appointment with your GP through newly introduced Telehealth program
  • Please only go to hospital in a medical emergency.

Is your mobile phone clean?

We probably touch our phones as much or more than we touch our face. Your mobile phone may be as dirty as your nose, read the tips below for keeping your mobile sanitary:

  • Clean your phone regularly with detergent wipes
  • Clean your hands regularly including before and after using your mobile phone
  • Don’t answer your phone if you are wearing Personal Protective Equipment (masks)
  • Consider placing your phone in clear sealed bag when you leave the house, and discard before you get home as an additional precaution.

Tips for people living with lung disease and lung cancer: 

“We know our community of people who have underlying lung disease tend to be at a heightened risk for respiratory infections and we suspect that this will be the case for coronavirus too.” – Prof Christine Jenkins AM 

Tips for people living with lung disease and lung cancer: 

  • Call your doctor and make sure you are on the correct treatment. 
  • Make sure you have supply of your daily and emergency medications. 
  • Check the dates of your scripts to ensure they are current.  
  • Check with your doctor that you are taking your medicine as prescribed, so you can be confident that you are receiving your medication effectively. 
  • Ensure you have an action plan developed with your treating doctor to help you recognise when symptoms worsen and how to take action to manage them. Ensure you understand every step of your Action Plan; speak to your treating doctor to gain further clarity on the steps if needed. If your action plan is not up-to-date or you do not have a written plan, speak with your doctor.
  • If your symptoms worsen or you have a fever, seek medical advice by phoning your treating doctor, visiting a fever clinic or phoning Healthdirect Helpline 1800 022 222.
  • If you have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or asthma, use a spacer if required with your inhaler device.  
  • If you require medical attention, ensure you take all medication with you to the hospital or doctor.  
  • Talk to your GP about having your influenza vaccination updated as it becomes available and ask them about whether a pneumococcal vaccination is indicated.  
  • Don’t stop taking your medication unless authorised by your treating doctor.
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