The global impact of COVID-19 on chronic urticaria

Chronic urticaria

The global impact of COVID-19 on chronic urticaria

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted almost everything. It’s affected schools, workplaces, shops, and even medical practices. But the impact of the pandemic on various health conditions like chronic urticaria (CU), which affects 50 million patients globally, is still largely unknown. 

Common questions and concerns revolve around whether the treatments for CU can affect COVID, making patients more likely to contract it or worsen their symptoms. That’s why we conducted our own study to help shed some light on the impact of the pandemic on consultations, treatment, and changes in medication for patients with chronic urticaria.

What we did

We wanted to take stock of what other professionals experienced during the pandemic. A 17-item questionnaire was sent out to all 110 centres within the UCARE network. These questions focused on the most prevalent issues faced by urticaria specialists in this last year, and how this affected the care they could give.

Of the 110 surveys sent out, 95 responded.

How does COVID affect chronic urticaria?

First, let’s look at it on a physical level. With COVID-19 being a question mark for people with CU, we wanted to know if it adversely affected them. And that’s exactly what we found – COVID made CU symptoms worse for more than a third of patients. Those with severe COVID were more likely to have exacerbated CU symptoms compared to those with mild or moderate cases.

But does merely having CU make it more likely to contract the coronavirus. Our research shows that no, it doesn’t seem to increase the risk of sufferers developing a severe COVID reaction, even in patients on biological treatment (antihistamines, omalizumab). So while they aren’t more likely to catch it, there’s still a good enough reason to want to avoid it.

Chronic urticaria treatments and COVID

Next, we wanted to address how COVID affected CU treatment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pandemic made care for CU patients much harder to access, with almost half of the physicians in the study involved in COVID patient care, too. But with the study outlining how COVID can worsen CU symptoms, it’s clear that specialised urticaria centres are essential.

While the pandemic is making care harder to receive, it doesn’t have any significant effect on the use of first, second, and third-line treatments for CU. For example, antihistamine and omalizumab treatment continued as usual. Physicians agreed that antihistamines at the usual or higher doses are safe, even for patients with COVID-19.

In fact, antihistamines actually decreased the likelihood of fatality in patients with severe or critical lung COVID symptoms. And the same could be true for omalizumab, with 92.6% of physicians agreeing omalizumab is safe, too.

But only 24.2% agreed that immunosuppressive treatments (like cyclosporine) can be continued. 

Our research shined a much-needed light on a condition that’s gone underappreciated during the pandemic. It highlights that we need to ensure those with CU still receive the treatment they need, and that safeguarding is of top priority. We were driven by our dedication to urticaria and always raise awareness of the condition for October 1st – National Chronic Urticaria Day.

Struggling with chronic urticaria? Regain control of your life. Allergy Clinic London has a team of experts who are dedicated to helping you get control of your symptoms. Call us now on 02031 433 449.

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