FRIDAY, November 25, 2022 (HealthDay News) — When COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in the UK, the risk of severe asthma attacks doubled.

Although COVID is no more likely to cause asthma attacks than other respiratory infections, safety measures like wearing masks and less socializing may have kept those attacks at bay, the authors of a new study suggested.

“Our study was an observational study, so it cannot prove cause and effect. But our findings raise the possibility that certain elements of the public health measures put in place during the pandemic — such as wearing face masks — could help reduce respiratory disease progression,” study lead author Adrian Martineau said in a press release from Queen Mary University of London, where he is Clinical Professor of Respiratory Infections and Immunity.

Researchers looked at data from more than 2,300 adults with asthma who participated in the university’s COVIDENCE UK study between November 2020 and April 2022. Participants answered a monthly online questionnaire asking about face covering use, social mixing and asthma symptoms.

COVID restrictions were imposed in Spring 2020. In April 2021, restrictions on social mixing and the need for face coverings began to ease in the UK

When restrictions were lifted, fewer people wore face coverings. They tended to mix socially. The study found that people were subsequently at higher risk for COVID and other acute respiratory infections.

“It’s also reassuring to see that COVID-19 did not trigger asthma attacks significantly more often than other respiratory infections in our study participants,” said study co-author Florence Tydeman, noting some of the other findings. At the time of her studies she was a statistician and epidemiologist at the university.

In their April 2021 responses, less than 2% of study participants reported having had a severe asthma attack in the previous month.

As of January 2022, nearly 4% had had a severe seizure in the past month.

More than 300 million people around the world suffer from asthma, with symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing and coughing.

The results were recently published in the journal thorax. They were also presented at the British Thoracic Society meeting on November 23.

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have more on asthma.

SOURCE: Queen Mary University of London, press release, 23 November 2022