Minister Simon Harris launches Asthma Society of Ireland’s Sláintecare-funded, Beating Breathlessness WhatsApp Messaging Support Service

04 May 2020

6 out of 10 people concerned about contracting a severe form of coronavirus due to their asthma according to Asthma Society research

The Asthma Society of Ireland today launched their new Sláintecare-funded, Beating Breathlessness WhatsApp messaging support service, which is available to patients with asthma and COPD, and their family and carers. 

Over 380,000 people in Ireland currently have asthma and 890,000 people will have it at some stage in their lifetime. The current Covid-19 pandemic is a time of particular worry for people with asthma and their families.  While people with asthma are not more likely to contract coronavirus, they may experience more severe symptoms if they do so - managing your asthma well has never been more important.

The Asthma Society’s new Beating Breathless WhatsApp messaging service allows patients to message a respiratory specialist nurse about all aspects of their asthma management. Users can simply save the WhatsApp nurse support service number 086 0590132 to their phones, send their message or support query and one of the Asthma Society’s respiratory specialist nurses will respond as soon as possible.

This service complements the existing Asthma Society’s existing Asthma and COPD Adviceline 1800 44 54 64, which has been a valuable source of information for asthma and COPD patients since the pandemic began - second only to in terms of trust according to a recent survey. 

The survey, conducted in April 2020 amongst 2,462 patients living with asthma and COPD in Ireland, asked patients about their concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic and found that:

  • 9 out of 10 (92%) people with a long-term respiratory illness surveyed are very concerned or concerned about becoming infected with the coronavirus due to asthma or COPD.
  • 4 out of 10 (41%) feel that there is not enough information readily available on coronavirus and its effect on people with respiratory illnesses. 
  • 8 out of 10 (82%) were concerned they would not be tested quickly enough if they do contract coronavirus.
  • 7 out of 10 (71%) were very concerned they will require a ventilator treatment for coronavirus.
  • 6 out of 10 (63%) concerned about contracting a severe form of coronavirus (due to their asthma).
  • In terms of access to medications, 3 in 10 (34%) people are concerned over high demand, but not supply. 
  • 1 in 5 (22%) people stated that they were not confident in their medication use at this time and 3 out of 10 (31%) of people with asthma/COPD have avoided support or healthcare services because they were concerned about the health impact of coronavirus. 

The final finding is of particular concern to the Asthma Society as ignoring worsening conditions for someone with asthma/COPD without medical advice could lead to an unnecessary asthma exacerbation or even death (in extreme circumstances).

The Asthma Society’s Medical Advisory Group members have expressed a concern about seeing fewer patients present at GP and hospital level. The Asthma Society of Ireland encourages asthma and COPD patients to reach out to their GP / Consultant and leave a message. Patients need to be reassured that all healthcare professionals are doing their utmost to look after everyone in this difficult environment and that healthcare professionals will get back regarding your medication / healthcare concerns. 

Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, said: “The results of our survey indicate that people with asthma are extremely anxious about coronavirus. People with asthma and COPD are considered to be a higher risk if they do contract coronavirus and therefore they do require additional support in these uncertain times.

Asked for their greatest concern for the weeks ahead patients responded: “I fear me or my asthmatic child getting the virus and the terror of being separated from him if he had to go to hospital,” and, “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).”

We believe that the new Sláintecare funded, Beating Breathlessness WhatsApp messaging service can help users ease some of their concerns right now during the coronavirus pandemic and we believe it will continue to support and assist patients.”

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said: “Beating Breathlessness empowers people affected by Asthma or COPD to manage their condition, with the guidance of a nurse over WhatsApp’s messaging service. 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. Beating Breathlessness is innovative in how it provides information and support to people who need it, making it easier for people to access these supports anytime and anywhere. It shows how care can be provided even while social distancing, and that there are numerous ways people can access the supports they need during the COVID-19 pandemic, including those offered by the Asthma Society whose services have been even more acutely needed by patients in recent months."


Susan O’Dwyer, Pharmacy Strategy Manager for Boots Ireland, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many unique challenges for people with asthma. It is now more important than ever to ensure you or your child’s asthma is under control and well-managed. We are delighted to support the Asthma Society of Ireland with Asthma Awareness Week 2020 and we hope it will help people with asthma in availing of the range of supports that are available to help with managing their asthma. For advice and information on how our pharmacists can support, please visit”

Jon Barbour, Director of Medical Affairs, GSK Pharma Ireland:“GSK is proud to support this important campaign. For over 50 years we have been committed to helping those with asthma breathe better and we share the Asthma Society’s mission to save and improve the lives of people with the condition. Now more than ever, proper asthma management is essential to prevent attacks and we encourage people to fill out their Asthma Action Plan with their healthcare professional or via the Beating Breathlessness nurse service.”

Audrey Derveloy, Managing Director of Novartis Ireland, said: “Novartis are proud to support the Asthma Society of Ireland and Asthma Awareness Week.  We would encourage patients only to use their medications as prescribed and to reach out to their healthcare professional if they are unsure.  People with severe asthma and older people are considered vulnerable at this time and it is important that they not make any changes to their medication without medical advice.”   

Laura Magahy, Executive Director of Slaintecare, said: “We are proud to support the launch of the Asthma Society's new Beating Breathlessness WhatsApp service, which is funded by the Sláintecare Integration Fund.  Access to accurate information and patient education is crucial amid the current pandemic and providing direct contact with specialised asthma respiratory nurses will help to ease patient concerns in these challenging times.”

The survey also showed that people with asthma and COPD are quite knowledgeable on COVID-19 and how to protect themselves.  Almost all (98%) knew to phone their GP was the first step towards getting tested for COVID-19. Three out of four people (77%) confident in listing how to protect against COVID-19 and confident in listing the symptoms of COVID-19.  This is hugely positive as education is key in protecting against COVID-19, especially if a patient is considered vulnerable. 

Visit for more information about the new Beating Breathlessness WhatsApp service, as well as activities taking place during Asthma Awareness Week, or visit for details of the 10 Million Steps for Asthma fundraising campaign.

Please note that the Beating Breathlessness WhatsApp messaging service or Adviceline service should not be used where a person is experiencing an asthma attack/emergency – please phone 999/112 if you are having an asthma attack to get immediate medical assistance from the ambulance services.