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Fewer asthma GP visits in lockdown

Wednesday February 10th 2021

There was a significant drop in patient visits to GPs about asthma during the first UK lockdown, according to a new analysis.

The number of GP surgery visits was analysed by Dr Ahmar Shah of the University of Edinburgh, UK, and colleagues. They examined a national GP database with information on nearly 10 million patients. This highlighted 100,165 who had at least one asthma attack since 2016.

GP visits were counted in weekly blocks from January to August 2020 - and compared against the same time points in 2016 to 2019.

This showed an overall 20% drop in visits for asthma attacks beginning on 23 March 2020, when the lockdown started.

A drop was seen in all age groups, for men and women, and in all areas of England except London and the North East.

Looking at hospital visits for asthma attack, there was no corresponding drop.

The researchers suggest that lower levels of air pollution, as well as fewer cold and flu infections, could have led to a genuine reduction in asthma attacks. However, the reduced number of visits could be based on an avoidance of GP surgeries due to COVID-19 infection risk.

Dr Shah said: "Asthma is a chronic condition that affects over five million people in the UK and until now, we didn't know how these patients were being affected by lockdown. The data shows an overall reduction in asthma attacks seen at the GP.

"However, it is not clear whether this was an actual improvement in asthma due to reduced pollution and fewer opportunities for other viruses to spread or whether patients were reluctant to attend their doctor's surgery during the pandemic. Further research will help explain the reasons behind our findings."

Shah, A. et al. Thorax 10 February 2021

[abstract]

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | NHS | UK News

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