Living with Asthma

Coronavirus and Asthma

Last updated on October 20th, 2022 at 07:45 am

People with asthma may be more susceptible to COVID-19 because they already have an underlying lung disease. Learn coronavirus and asthma connection.

The coronavirus is a virus that can cause an infection in the lungs. Asthma patients are more likely to contract the virus than those without asthma, but it can affect anyone. The coronavirus has been wreaking havoc across the world. This article will provide information on both coronavirus and asthma and how they affect each other.

The Coronavirus and Asthma Connection

Asthma is a respiratory illness that causes recurring attacks of breathlessness and wheezing. According to The Global Burden of Diseases study in 2016, it was estimated that over 339 million people suffered from this chronic disease. Asthma remains one of the leading non-communicable diseases in the world with a significant mortality rate. World Asthma Day 2020 falls amidst the crisis of COVID-19. In this article, we are going to talk about the risks that coronavirus poses to asthma patients and the preventive steps they must follow.

During an attack of asthma, swelling occurs in the patient’s lining’s airways, leading them to become narrower and highly sensitive to irritants present in the environment (dust and other pollutants). During such an attack, a patient’s body experiences reduced airflow in and out of the lungs. Asthma can be managed through preventive measures using medication and using inhalers as per the case.

Asthma Risks Posed by COVID-19

A recent threat has emerged to asthma patients as COVID-19. The risk and severity of the infection seems to be higher in patients suffering from chronic diseases and weakened immunity. While so far there has been none medically confirmed a connection between asthma attacks and coronavirus infection, the likelihood is always there since both affect the respiratory system in humans. Also, looking at the past, viral infections such as the flu and coronavirus diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), asthma patients seem to be among the more vulnerable categories.

Asthma and COVID-19

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is scary for all people, but for those with asthma, there is great fear they will have a worse outcome or be more likely to get SARS-CoV-2. It is important to know that currently there is no evidence of increased infection rates in those with asthma. And although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that patients with moderate-severe asthma could be at greater risk for more severe disease, there are no published data to support this determination.

There has been one report suggesting that asthma may increase the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 in 18-49-year-old adults; however, this is based on a few patients. It is important to remember we are dealing with a developing pandemic and new information could change the situation in the future.

There have been several reports that steroids are contraindicated in COVID-19 disease, so many are wondering what should people with asthma do if their controlled medication is a steroid (inhaled or oral). The short answer is to continue taking your controller medications and do not stop it. The data suggesting that steroids might increase the shedding of SARS-CoV-2 comes from treating hospitalized patients with systemic steroids just for the viral illness. Using steroids for treating other diseases (like asthma) was not studied. However, people with asthma are placed on controlled medications to keep their asthma under control.

In the current pandemic, the best thing a person with asthma can do is to get and keep their asthma under control. Stopping a controller medication will put the person at risk for developing an asthma exacerbation, especially as we enter the allergy season. In the current pandemic, treatment of an exacerbation will probably require going to the emergency department or urgent care, where the individual has a much higher risk of being exposed to someone with COVID-19. So by continuing to keep asthma under control, the person with asthma is actually reducing their chance of exposure to COVID-19.

There are seasonal versions of coronaviruses that have been shown to cause asthma exacerbations. The SARS-CoV-2 virus (like SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, the two other pandemic coronaviruses) does not seem to cause asthma exacerbations. It is always important for asthma patients to keep their asthma under the best possible control. That way, their lungs will be best prepared should any infection or allergen lead to an exacerbation of their asthma.

Prevention Steps for Asthma Patients During Coronavirus Pandemic

Under normal circumstances, asthma is managed through immunosuppressive drugs, such as steroid sprays through oral inhalers. It is recommended that patients keep taking the prescribed medication, although the dosage might be adjusted as per the advice of the patient’s physician. In fact, there are chances that any stoppage of the drug usage might actually make the patients more prone to asthma attacks of increased severity. Such an occurrence can lead to risk of exposure to coronavirus. Hence, patients must continue their medication as advised, but also take the following steps to keep themselves safe and prepared for all eventualities.

  1. Asthma patients must observe all the standard precautions, such as avoiding public transport or visit to crowded public spaces.
  2. There is a need to maintain physical distancing of two meters or more from other people.
  3. Any non-essential stepping out of the home should be avoided during the current scenario.
  4. Even when there is no lockdown or curfew, it is imperative to work from home until the pandemic is brought under control.
  5. Another major precaution is to be well aware of the severity of your condition, since it will be crucial in determining the extent of precautions that you need to take.
  6. Further steps such as hand-hygiene and sanitation of living spaces must also be adhered to.
  7. Yoga for asthma

Steps to Manage Asthma During COVID-19 Pandemic

  1. Use inhalers: Continue using your inhalers regularly during the pandemic to keep your condition under control and avoiding any risk of attacks.
  2. Understand the triggers: Asthma triggers are usually different from one person to another. Some people are affected by cold air, others by pollutants and dust, and even smells; different foods or drinks aggravate the condition. Hence, one must be mindful of these triggers and avoid them during the present scenario.
  3. Keep a record: Many asthma symptoms appear to be like COVID-19, such as breathlessness, chest pain, and tightness. Asthma patients usually undertake peak flow meters to determine the breath power in their airways. Frequency and type of medication and various other details should be carefully documented and kept ready for a doctor’s reference at all times.
  4. Keep the right inhaler ready: Depending upon the condition, the drugs used in inhalers could be different in composition or dosage. You must always know what inhaler to use in case of an emergency. Even when you have been managing the condition well and haven’t used the inhaler for a long time, you should always have it handy. There is a need to periodically check to ensure that the inhaler is not expired.

Any suspected COVID-19 symptoms in asthma patients must be immediately reported to a healthcare professional telephonically or through digital communication channels. Even if there are mild symptoms, you need to remain isolated at home or wherever you are staying at the time for at least 14 days. COVID-19 cases often cause a patient’s condition to deteriorate quickly. Hence, a plan must be in place to transfer the patient to a designated hospital.

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COVID-19 is a highly contagious infection that is potentially fatal. Even though there has not been found any authenticated connection between asthma and the pandemic until now, it is important to take necessary precautions. This is a novel coronavirus and its behavior and impact are still not fully known. Hence, working in tandem with your doctor and following the steps suggested is essential to staying safe in these trying times.

The bottom line for people with asthma during this pandemic is to keep doing what you have been doing all along. Continue taking your controller medication and inform your healthcare provider or family physician of any symptoms that you may develop. And, of course, remember to practice physical distancing and wash your hands.

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