The virus causing COVID-19 also attacks the lungs and results in breathlessness and other symptoms similar to asthma. This has made people with asthma wonder if they are more prone to severe complications of COVID-19. Read this article to know more.
COVID-19 has been the scariest thing ever in this whole year of 2020. It has been proven to be more contagious, and positive cases are increasing day by day all over the world. It has been transmitted through the nasopharyngeal secretions of affected individuals, and it is a primary disease of the respiratory system in human beings. However, it also affects the gastrointestinal and nervous system, though the accurate pathophysiology has not been established yet. Also, it has proven that the primary target of COVID-19 is people with a low immune system. They are termed as the immunocompromised group of people.
These immunocompromised people fall particularly into two age groups:
The youngest human beings who are children less than 14 years. They still do not have a well established immune system.
The other group is the elderly, who are 55, 60, and above. They have deteriorating immune systems.
But, specific individuals who are not in these age groups have a low immune system due to the presence of severe diseases like HIV, cancer, etc.
Asthma is not a life-threatening disease, but it is an easy situation in which infection can occur easily. This pandemic has made even healthy individuals fear for their health. But, people with other comorbid conditions, especially when it is a respiratory condition, could be even fatal.
Asthma is one of the most common respiratory conditions, which causes dyspnea in the affected person. It causes difficulty in respiration. Asthma is usually caused due to several reasons. It might be transferred through families that fall under the genetic cause of the disease. It most commonly occurs due to an allergic trigger. It causes the immune system to start a hypersensitivity reaction. The allergic triggers might be dust, pollen grains, seasonal changes, mites, pets, and chemicals. When a hypersensitivity reaction is started, immune cells are released, and it someway causes the smooth muscle aided severe bronchoconstriction of the respiratory system. This will lead to symptoms like cough, wheezing, chest retractions, etc. The episodes of asthma are referred to as asthma attacks.
Asthma attacks in any individual might be acute or even chronic, depending upon the occurrence. Immediate medical care and attention are often needed. However, in people who have recurrent episodes of asthma, patients are provided with handy inhalers to take puffs adequately as prophylaxis and for acute treatment of asthma under uncertain conditions. The medicines that are used in the treatment of asthma are short-acting and long-acting bronchodilators like Salbutamol, Salmeterol, corticosteroids also can be used in acutely severe cases. Nebulizers and intravenous Theophylline can also be used. In the case of co-infections, intravenous, and oral antibiotics can be given.
Any comorbid health condition increases the risk of getting infected by a coronavirus. As said earlier, if the comorbid condition is related to the respiratory system, the risk is actually doubled. There are no proven studies or research that state and proves that asthma increases the risk of infection. However, practicing doctors in this COVID-19 crisis suggest that a history of asthma in patients increases the risk of getting a severe form of the infection.
Asthma is already a disease that limits respiration, and it can also aid in the development of co-infections. So, an asthmatic patient who gets acute or chronic attacks of asthma, when they come in contact with the coronavirus due to any reasons, can develop a co-infection with the virus. During the infected phase, if the patient gets an asthma attack, as we know, coronavirus already makes breathing a difficult task, asthma attack adds to the severity of the condition. So, the affected individual will experience severe difficulty in breathing, which might aggravate the disease. The established hypersensitivity reaction by the immune system might also interfere with the immune-mediated responses during the coronavirus infection. All the above factors might be a severe risk factor in an asthmatic patient during coronavirus infection.
Since everything about asthma and COVID-19 infection is still uncertain and not proven in any studies, the only easy and vital activity that a person with asthma history can do is prevent asthmatic attacks. Asthmatic attacks can be prevented by avoiding asthma triggers, reducing the amount of dust in the living area, limiting travel to dusty environments, when necessary a travel person should compulsorily wear masks.
Regular intake of prophylactic asthmatic medicines like inhalers and most important medicines should be carried handily to prevent acute attacks of asthma. Avoiding or skipping a controller or prophylactic medication will lead to a situation called asthmatic exacerbation. Asthmatic exacerbation needs emergency medical care at the hospital, where the risk of being exposed to coronavirus is quite high.
The regular practice of washing hands with soap is very mandatory and the most basic one. People with asthma, who work in office environments where washing hands often is not possible should carry a pocket hand sanitizer and disinfect their hands at regular intervals. Contact surfaces at the homes of asthmatics should also be regularly cleaned. Above all, smoking is a risk factor to both asthmas as well as COVID-19. Thus it is essential to quit smoking during this pandemic, especially asthmatics.
There are a few common symptoms in both COVID 19 and asthma. The common symptoms are cough, difficulty breathing, and fever. However, a patient who has recurrent asthma attacks can recognize the difference between an asthmatic attack and any other common flu-like symptoms easily. The main symptom that distinguishes asthma from COVID-19 is wheezing. Wheezing does not occur more commonly in coronavirus infection. Because COVID-19 presents commonly with flu-like symptoms that are sore throat, cough, fever, headache, fatigue, it might also present digestive symptoms like diarrhea that are not usually significant with asthmatic attacks.
When an asthmatic patient experiences COVID-19 like symptoms, the first step the patient has to do is self-isolate himself or herself from the rest of the family members. Next, if the person should consult with a doctor regularly, or if the person has a family doctor who knows the patient’s history thoroughly well, the patient can contact the doctor and explain the symptoms experienced by the patient and seek medical advice and follow accordingly.
If the symptoms feel more like an asthma attack, short-acting bronchodilators like inhalers can be taken, and corticosteroids can also be tried if the doctor advises so. If there is acute asthma exacerbation like symptoms along with flu-like symptoms, immediate treatment or management at the hospital might be needed. Something even more important than that is the patient or the family members accompanying the patient to the hospital is responsible for providing an adequate history of the person’s comorbid conditions, especially the history of asthma, and the treatment history must be informed to the hospital. Thus, this is how patients with a history of acute or chronic asthma can prevent, protect, and manage themselves during this coronavirus pandemic.
If you want to discuss more asthma and COVID-19, call a doctor online.
Last reviewed at:
01 Aug 2020 - 4 min read
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