Scientists are still exploring the coronavirus and many things remain unknown. Since asthma is a respiratory condition, people are interested in how COVID-19 can affect people with this issue.
Are people with asthma at a higher risk for COVID-related complications? We don’t have a lot of proven research looking at people with asthma and this particular new coronavirus. However, scientists state that people who suffer from asthma need to be aware that the coronavirus, as well as other viral diseases, might provoke a flare in their asthma symptoms. Therefore, it’s extremely likely that people with asthma, especially with severe or unmanaged asthma, are more prone to severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Let’s take a look at three important things people with asthma should know. They need to know their health risks and how to stay safe and healthy.
1. Asthma and the risk of COVID-19 complications.
Unfortunately, scientists still don’t know a lot about the risk of coronavirus complications and whether or not asthma is linked to worse outcomes from COVID-19.
During one recent study, scientists looked at 140 people infected with the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. They identified some underlying conditions in many of the patients such as eosinopenia and lymphopenia (these are the types of low white blood cell count). However, asthma wasn’t one of those conditions, suggesting that having asthma doesn’t make it more likely that you’ll be infected.
So, what if you do become infected? According to recent data, asthma isn’t a major risk factor for hospitalization. Another recent study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at 201 people in Wuhan with COVID-19 pneumonia. 66 patients had other comorbid chronic diseases, including five with chronic lung conditions. Even a larger demographic study of over 1,000 patients in the New England Journal of Medicine does not indicate that asthma or chronic lung conditions are underlying diseases.
However, even with limited research, experts suggest that asthma should be considered a high-risk condition based on what we know about it and how viral illnesses generally affect those with asthma. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those with moderate to severe asthma may still be at a higher risk for developing severe COVID-19 symptoms if they do get infected.
It’s important to understand that any disease that lowers your respiratory reserve (like asthma) can put you at a higher risk of having a negative outcome if you happen to get a COVID-19 infection.
The more severe or less controlled asthma is the bigger chances to develop complications. On the contrary, people with mild and well-controlled asthma might not experience severe symptoms and they are not likely to develop complications. In order to manage asthma well, it’s important to visit your primary care physician regularly and follow their recommendations.
2. COVID-19 might provoke asthma symptoms and attacks.
Asthma is a chronic disease in which the airways produce mucus, become inflamed, and swell. Some people might experience symptoms all the time and a lot of people with asthma also develop attacks in which their symptoms exacerbate.
An asthma attack is accompanied by cough, chest discomfort, and inability to breathe normally. If an asthma attack doesn’t get better after using an inhaler then you need emergency medical care. Asthma is usually triggered by allergens, exercise, and conditions like colds and the flu. Therefore, the coronavirus is likely to be a huge trigger for asthma.
3. Things you can do if you have asthma.
The main goal for people with asthma is to be able to manage symptoms as much as possible at home without having the need to make use of urgent care. It will help keep you safe from COVID-19 and other diseases you might get in the hospital. So, here are some tips that can help you keep yourself safe and healthy:
1. Control your asthma.
If you have asthma, you probably have a solid treatment. However, if you notice that your usual treatment plan isn’t already working properly, it’s time to contact your healthcare provider.
2. Don’t stop taking your meds (including steroids).
There are some reports indicating that steroids, which work by suppressing the immune system’s inflammatory response, may make it harder for the body to combat coronavirus.
However, the most important thing is to control your asthma well, even if you need to take steroid medications. Therefore, it’s important to keep taking your usual meds and if you have any questions about certain meds, talk to your doctor about it.
3. Get a three-month supply of medications.
If you are able, try to get a three-month supply of your usual meds for asthma as it will help you avoid the effects of a potential medication shortage that certain areas of the country are already experiencing.
4. Be careful when using nebulizers.
Nebulizers that are often used by people with asthma, can actually lead to the spread of the coronavirus. When you breathe out what’s in your lungs, that increases the risk of spreading droplets containing the virus. Therefore if you suspect that you have been infected by COVID-19, use an inhaler if possible. However if you really need to use a nebulizer, then you need to use it carefully if you live with somebody.
5. Don’t forget about telemedicine appointments.
Telemedicine appointment is a good thing especially for those who are at the highest risk of COVID complications. Now, asthma specialists, allergists, and primary care physicians offer telemedicine visits. These visits help doctors to evaluate patients who might be developing severe symptoms. These appointments will help you avoid getting coronavirus infection as well as it will help to avoid a burden on the health care system.