Covid-19: New Asthma Society survey reveals concerns over testing and ventilators

More than 80 per cent of people with respiratory illness concerned about testing

More than 80 per cent of people with a long-term respiratory illness are concerned they will not be tested quickly enough if they contract coronavirus, a new survey has found.

The survey, conducted by the Asthma Society of Ireland, asked almost 2,500 asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients about their concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 92 per cent of people surveyed said they were very concerned about contracting coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, due to their respiratory illness, while 71 per cent of the patients said they were concerned they would require a ventilator if they did contract the virus.

The survey also found that four in 10 people felt there was not enough information readily available about how coronavirus affects people with respiratory ailments.


Three in 10 patients said they have avoided healthcare services due to fears of the health impact of the pandemic.

The Asthma Society said it was concerned by some of the findings, particularly that people are avoiding seeking medical help, as ignoring worsening conditions without medical advice could lead to an unnecessary asthma exacerbation or even death.

The society is encouraging asthma and COPD patients to reach out to their GP or consultant if they need medical advice or assistance.

Sarah O’Connor, chief executive of the charity, said people with asthma and COPD are particularly vulnerable to the virus, and should be given extra support during these times.

“The results of our survey indicate that people with asthma are extremely anxious about coronavirus,” Ms O’Connor said.

“Asked for their greatest concern for the weeks ahead patients responded: ‘I’m worried about not being considered for an in-demand ventilator due to asthma’ and ‘that I would not be considered worth saving (due to asthma)’,” said Ms O’Connor.

The publication of the survey results comes as the Asthma Society launches a new Sláintecare-funded WhatsApp messaging support service called Beating Breathlessness.

The service allows patients to message a respiratory specialist nurse about all aspects of their asthma management.

However, the charity said the advice line, which is available at 086 0590132, should not be used if an individual is experiencing an asthma attack or emergency.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the new service "empowers people affected by asthma or COPD to manage their condition".

“One of the aims of the Sláintecare Integration Fund is for people to become more engaged and empowered in their own healthcare, and this service allows people to do that, with medical support,” said Mr Harris.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times