By Rohit Batta, CMO of Vicore Pharma
Not being able to go out much during the UK lockdown made me wonder how IPF patients cope with the challenges they face in terms of social isolation.
Lots of us experienced lockdown, and a sense of isolation, but have since been able to return to some degree of interaction and social engagement. The British Lung Foundation (BLF) advises IPF patients do what they can to reduce the risk of catching or spreading coronavirus. This includes keeping their distance from anyone outside their household and following the government guidance for where they live (including local lockdowns). Limiting contact with people outside of the household can lower the risk of catching the COVID-19 virus, as it reduces the number of people you come into contact with. Having to constantly think about what you need, such as getting food and other essential supplies, and making arrangements to get them delivered – by professional services or friends/family – means that you need to be very organised and ensure you have a supply of any essential medication.
The signs and symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis include shortness of breath, a dry cough and fatigue – all of which are also symptoms for COVID-19.The risk factors for severe COVID-19 are shared with IPF, suggesting that this group of patients could be at increased risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms: https://www.thelancet.com
So I can imagine that if you are an IPF patient, this could be an anxious time for you and it must be challenging watching the news and listening to the increasing list of possible coronavirus symptoms and comparing them to those of IPF. The wearing of face masks can also be problematic for people with IPF. Many of us have got more used to wearing face masks now as they can filter out respiratory droplets potentially carrying the COVID-19 virus. There isn’t a blanket exemption for people with a lung condition in the UK, but the BLF advises that for a few people with a lung condition, wearing face masks can increase their sensation of breathlessness to the extent they cannot tolerate wearing one, and have produced a printable graphic to help those who have been declared medically exempt: https://www.blf.org.uk
IPF patients are used to looking after their health but everyone can use extra support from time to time. Groups such as Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis (https://www.actionpf.org/) can make a difference to the lives of people with IPF living through COVID-19, and we are really happy to have been able to support them recently and will continue to try to find ways to be a useful partner.
Please stay safe everyone, and help any friends who might be isolating for whatever reason.