The Bubble: Why Lockdown Life Has Probably Been Easier on My Asthma
When I saw my asthma specialist about six months into the pandemic, we talked about how the incidence of colds and flu had gone down in places with a Summer flu season. I have now had 3 pandemic-times visits with her, and it has remained the case that my asthma has stayed even better-controlled than usual during the pandemic.
Scrolling the news today, a headline from "The Conversation" caught my eye.
"We expected people with asthma to fare worse during COVID. Turns out they’ve had a break."
I am not going to focus on the impact of the actual COVID virus itself on people with asthma in this article, however, I am going to focus on one facet of this article: why lockdown life has probably been easier on my asthma than my pre-pandemic lifestyle.
Lockdown life with asthma: The bubble
While "the bubble" took on a new meaning during the pandemic of small groups of people who, in some regions (not mine) were permitted to gather together with non-household members in various stages of lockdowns, a more traditional use of the term "the bubble" may apply more to those of us with asthma since March-ish 2020.
Most of us have at least relatively asthma-friendly homes. My house is where I have spent the vast majority of my time since our first lockdown here in Manitoba over 600 days ago. I have not been on the bus inhaling fumes wafting into the open door, I have not been next to people drenched in perfume in a coffee shop line, I have not been down the laundry detergent aisle, and when I stumbled into the candle-y aisle at the dollar store one day a month ago, I was wearing my filtering Vogmask that filters out most scents before they reach me. I have not been walking to the bus in -30°C weather, have not been sandwiched beside people whose clothing is covered in third-hand smoke on the bus, and I have spent most of the very cold and very hot parts of the year inside a climate-controlled house with both heating and air conditioning and an air purifier. I am not going about my travels on days where forest fire smoke fills the air, and I am not exposed to colds and other viruses when on public transit. If people I know have been around people who are sick, they have been transparent about their potential exposure due to the COVID risk and stay away. I have not been sick since my lung infection in November 2019, and it is now November 2021.
In short, the lockdown, and COVID-safe protocols I have the privilege to stick quite strictly to, are in reality really good for avoiding most asthma triggers.
The things we are not doing
I think one of the realities of asthma during the pandemic is actually about the things we are not doing and the things we are not exposed to. The article from The Conversation notes both decreased exposure to allergens and viruses, including 2021 flu cases at just 0.1% of Australia's 2019 flu numbers. The article also notes, though, that it may appear asthma incidence has gone down when it has not, as people may be resisting seeking medical attention for their asthma due to fears about contracting COVID.1
While my pre-vaccine pandemic life and post-vaccine pandemic life have remained much the same, with vaccines on board and boosters being encouraged in many parts of the world (as I write this, I will be getting my third COVID vaccine in just over two weeks-6 months and 2 days since my second shot), it will be interesting to see how data about asthma-in-the-pandemic world changes as we enter different stages of living with the presence of the COVID-19 virus and its variants. And hopefully, one day we will have gotten vaccines to the global population as a whole, not just the wealthiest countries, and can perhaps return to a semblance of pre-pandemic normal. It is possible that some of this data about the epidemiology of asthma during different stages of the ridiculous times we have been living through may be able to inform what we know about immunity and immunology as it pertains to asthma and keeping asthmatics healthier. It would be a nice side bonus of all this nonsense, of all the things we are both doing and not doing, at least.
What about your asthma?
Have you learned anything about your asthma or triggers during the pandemic? Has your asthma improved or been easier to control at different times during the last couple of years?
Have you ever experienced an itchy chin prior to or during asthma attacks?