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COVID-19: Are People With Asthma At A Higher Risk Of The Infection?

COVID-19 poses a threat to everyone. It can infect people of any age group. According to the World Health Organization, people with preexisting medical conditions such as asthma are at higher risk of the infection. As COVID-19 is the infection of the lungs, asthmatics could risk getting seriously ill.

This is because of the respiratory system of asthmatics which is already compromised and contracting COVID-19 can make their condition worse. Though there is not sufficient evidence yet to prove the same, people with asthma are advised to stay safe as the infection can trigger an attack.

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Lungs Of An Asthmatic

Asthma is a chronic disease characterised by inflammation of the lungs and production of mucus causing a blockage in airways and difficulty in breathing. People with asthma often tend to cough or wheeze due to the extra sensitivity of the linings of the lungs. As a result, their airways start constricting more often even by a small allergic inflammatory response of dust or pollen. The constriction also gets triggered dueto certain viruses or bacteria.

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COVID-19 And Asthma

According to the Centre For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC), people who have moderate to severe asthma are more prone to getting infected with COVID-19. This is because the lungs of an asthmatic are sensitive to the inflammatory response of viral infections. As we know COVID-19 is a kind of viral disease, there are higher chances of worsening of the situation for people with asthma.

Not only asthmatic but people with any kind of lung diseases such as Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or chronic bronchitis are at higher risk of developing COVID-19 severe symptom i.e pneumonia. This is because the lungs of asthmatic are already compromised to carry out the process of respiration and COVID-19 could potentially harm the process in no time and make the situation even worse.

For example, consider an asthmatic whose lungs are just 60 per cent working. If they catch COVID-19, their body has to fight the virus with only 60 per cent of its lung capacity compared to 100 per cent of normal individuals. Also, COVID-19 is the disease of the lungs, so the struggle for an asthmatic is doubled. However, the best thing is asthma, COPD or any allergic disease is not a risk factor for COVID-19 compared to old age, hypertension and diabetes, says a study. [1]

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Do Medications Help?

Medications for asthma such as oral steroids or inhalers are only effective to prevent its symptoms and not to boost the immune system. If a person has asthma and catches COVID-19, chances are that the virus may make asthmatic drugs less effective and cause an asthma attack.

According to a study published in the Journal Of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, people who are under glucocorticoids for asthma or allergies have an increased risk of COVID-19 due to the immunosuppressive effect of such steroids. [2] Medicines which are based on human antibodies are suggested best for people with severe asthma as it reduces the risk of high oral steroids and related side effects.

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Precautions To Be Taken By Asthmatics

According to the CDC, people with asthma should take the following precautionary measure during COVID-19.

  • Always keep stock of supplies.
  • Strictly follow the rules of social distancing.
  • Avoid the crowd and stay away from people who are sick.
  • Stay away from your triggers like smoke or allergies.
  • Maintain proper hand hygiene.
  • Stay at home as much as possible.
  • Avoid sharing your personal belongings like cups and towels.
  • Maintain distancing from your pets.
  • Maintain a clean environment at home and surrounding areas
  • If you doubt you have symptoms of COVID-19, self-quarantine in a place where the air is not circulated inside your house.
  • Keep a check on your health and don't avoid it if you feel your symptoms are getting worse.
Story first published: Wednesday, April 8, 2020, 19:30 [IST]
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