Facial Palsy UK’s Response to Coronavirus

The Coronavirus situation is rapidly changing. Here’s what we are doing to respond to the needs of those we support, our supporters, staff and volunteers.

We will heed current Public Health England (PHE) and Government advice and take measures as needed to protect the best interests of our clients, supporters, volunteers and staff.

Support Groups

Please be assured that we are taking the UK Coronavirus situation very seriously and are regularly reviewing the possible impact on our services. We are currently running Support Sessions via Zoom across the UK with support from the National Lottery and other funders. To be notified of these please join our community and opt-in to support group news. All face-to-face support groups have been temporarily suspended and we will regularly review the situation to protect those attending and the volunteers who run them. In the event of the restrictions being lifted, everyone should check the website to see if a support group is still running just before travelling. This is a fast-changing situation and emails do not always reach people in time.

Support for children

We have created an online version of our children’s book as a free download during the crisis. Click to view children’s book. We also recently held a Zoom Christmas Quiz for children. We are planning a Zoom Support Session/Webinar for parents and carers of children with facial palsy in early 2021, this will be about communication strategies and increasing confidence.

Facial palsy and coronavirus

Medical Advisory Board statement:

We have had a number of enquiries about COVID-19, and in particular whether there is any evidence for increased risks to those affected by facial paralysis. We are monitoring the government advice and any published research that may indicate specific increased risks. If you are taking steroids for facial palsy please see additional information below. However, as the virus accesses the body via moist surfaces such as the eye and mouth, theoretically there are reasons to be extra careful with hand hygiene. People who may touch their face more regularly than average include those who have to regularly apply eye lubrication, have a watery eye, or have difficulty eating/dribbling. Regular hand washing and the use of disposable tissues is recommended for everyone to minimise disease transmission.

We cannot offer individual medical advice and suggest you seek advice on specific concerns about COVID-19 and your medical conditions from your doctor. There are the NHS guidelines for COVID-19 at this link– https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

Steroid treatment in acute onset facial paralysis

Medical Advisory Board statement:

The recommended management of Bell’s palsy is for the administration of oral steroids for 10-14 days [1]. In light of the current COVID-19 virus pandemic, we have been asked about the safety of oral steroids in those diagnosed with acute onset facial paralysis. The virus has a long incubation period where a person may not display symptoms, therefore steroids may be prescribed without anyone being aware that there was an infection. It is not known if there is any effect on catching the infection if the immune system is compromised by steroids [2].

As with all medical treatments, the balance of risk and benefit has to be weighed up in a discussion between the doctor and patient. A pragmatic approach for those who decide to take steroids is to self-isolate so that they may be at a lower risk if encountering the virus whilst their immune system is compromised.

Reference

  1. Nice Guidance on the management of Bell’s Palsy (Last revised May 2019). https://cks.nice.org.uk/bells-palsy#!management
  2. Clinical management of severe acute respiratory infection when novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection is suspected. 2020 World Health Organization. WHO. https://www.who.int/publications-detail/clinical-management-of-severe-acute-respiratory-infection-when-novel-coronavirus-(ncov)-infection-is-suspected

Eye care and Hand sanitiser

People with facial palsy may need to take more care when using hand sanitiser. When you press the pump on the hand sanitiser it generates aerosols which are a potential threat to the skin and the surface of the eye. An allergic or inflammatory response can occur, particularly in those with pre-existing eye conditions. Visit this link for more information about eye care and sanitiser.

Covid-19 Vaccination and Bell’s palsy

Medical Advisory Board statement:

Summary

Some people have expressed concern about reports indicating an apparently higher incidence of Bell’s palsy following vaccination against Covid-19. Currently there is no evidence that the numbers of reported cases of Bell’s palsy are higher than would be expected in the general population. However we are monitoring the situation and will update this information as further evidence comes to light.

Background

As of early-January 2021, there are three vaccines against Covid-19 being rolled out following promising trials and regulatory approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

The Pfizer study was trialled on approximately 43,000 people, half of whom received the vaccine whereas the rest received a placebo. Analysis of the results showed that there were 4 cases of Bell’s palsy in the vaccinated group, as opposed to none in the group that received placebo. In the Moderna vaccine trial of 30,000 people there were 4 cases of Bell’s palsy, three of which were in the vaccination group. The annual incidence of Bell’s palsy is approximately 30-40 cases per 100,000 people. Therefore one would expect a handful of cases in a random sample of 15-20,000 people (the size of the vaccinated group in the trials). We do not know why there were lower numbers of Bell’s palsy cases in the non-vaccinated. As part of usual monitoring after the introduction of a new treatment, doctors are encouraged to report any cases of adverse that might occur after vaccination. There have been no reports of Bell’s palsy cases with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Statement above approved by Facial Palsy UK Medical Advisory Board (updated 11 Jan 2021)

Please note that our support staff are not qualified to advise people whether they should have the vaccine or not and the only information we can provide is the statement above. We will not respond to emails or telephone calls of this nature. Patients must contact their health care provider if they have questions about the vaccination.

Useful information on the vaccines can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/covid-19-vaccination-programme

More information about each of the vaccines is also available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-for-covid-19

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-moderna

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca

Family Days

A Family Day was planned for 11 July 2020 at Eureka! in Halifax. This was cancelled due to the pandemic. We held a Zoom Christmas Quiz for children in December 2020.

Shop orders

Sending out shop orders has been suspended from time to time during the pandemic depending on local restrictions and staffing levels. The shop is closed now until 4 January 2021.

Great North Run

We have two places left for the Great North Run which normally need purchasing before the end of June. This event has been postponed until September 2021.

Supporters/Fundraisers

Thank you for your continued and much valued support. If you require advice about the events you are organising, your own fundraising activity or events you are participating in, please contact our Fundraising Team via email fundraising@facialpalsy.org.uk or call 0300 030 9333 and we will be pleased to offer support as best we can.

If you have collected sponsors on the condition of completing a specific activity which has been cancelled then donors are entitled to ask for a refund. They should contact JustGiving or Virgin Money Giving if donations were made via these platforms.

Volunteers

However you volunteer, if you are worried, have any underlying health conditions or feel you should take extra care during the current situation, please do not feel that you will be letting us down if you choose to step back.  Please contact us on volunteers@facialpalsy.org.uk if you have any questions. The safety and well-being of our volunteers remain paramount.

Thank you for your understanding during this time, you are an amazing group of people who we value very much.

Staff

We are taking all necessary measures to ensure that we are able to deliver our online, email and telephone support during this difficult period. There may be delayed responses to enquiries depending on staff levels and their family’s health.

As a final note, running events bring in a good level of income for us through the spring and summer months so we will see a decline in giving. These are uncertain times. However, we have robust financial planning in place and expect to weather this immediate storm as our overheads have always been low. There will be a financial impact though, particularly as more charities will turn to grant givers to replace this income in the place of running events, so we expect grant income to be more difficult to obtain.

The best way to help us is by small monthly donations but we appreciate not everyone is in the situation to commit to this right now. If you are able to give, this is the link:

https://www.facialpalsy.org.uk/donate-to-facial-palsy-uk/

Thank you for your support and understanding at what is a difficult and worrying time for everyone.

 

First added: 15 March 2020

Last updated: 11 January 2021

Last reviewed: 22-12-2020    ||    Next review due: 31-01-2021