COVID-19 is an evolving pandemic, and while everyone is at risk of getting it, those with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, are understandably fearful of the potential impact of the virus. The best thing a person with asthma can do is to manage their condition so that their asthma stays under control.
In this blog, Ulrike Ziegner, MD, of Riviera Allergy Medical Center in Redondo Beach, California, explains what COVID-19 is and how you can help protect yourself from getting it.
COVID-19 is known as a respiratory illness and disease, commonly affecting the sinuses, nose, and throat. The most common way it spreads is by way of droplets when an infected person sneezes. You get COVID-19 when you breathe in infected droplets or touch contaminated surfaces and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Most people who become infected with the virus develop mild symptoms, such as a cough, fever, and chills. Some people, however, may develop a serious illness, such as pneumonia.
Common respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Loss of smell
- Shortness of breath
Some symptoms are similar between asthma and COVID-19, such as wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. COVID-19 symptoms can last anywhere from 7-14 days, and in some cases longer. If you suspect you have COVID-19, you should contact your doctor to discuss the next steps.
COVID-19 and asthma
Because viral respiratory infections are a common trigger for severe asthma, experts initially assumed that COVID-19 may pose the same risk. While COVID-19 may cause serious illness in people with chronic conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes, it has not been shown to impact people with asthma or allergies more severely. Researchers aren’t sure why COVID-19 doesn’t appear to aggravate asthma symptoms like other respiratory viruses do. Further studies are needed to determine the underlying mechanisms.
COVID-19 and pneumonia
Pneumonia is a serious complication of COVID-19. People with asthma are not, however, at an increased risk of getting pneumonia. When COVID-19 is serious, it can cause an infection in both lungs.
Pneumonia causes inflammation in the millions of tiny air sacs in the lungs that fill with oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide. Pneumonia can prevent the lungs from taking in enough oxygen and cause difficulty breathing. As mentioned earlier, asthma is not a risk factor for getting COVID-19 related pneumonia. The risk factors are:
- Heart disease
- Chronic lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Diseases that compromise the immune system
COVID-19 and acute respiratory distress syndrome
When COVID-19 is very severe, it can cause severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). ARDS causes a severe lack of oxygen throughout the body. People who develop ARDS are often critically ill and already in the hospital receiving care that includes oxygen therapy. There is no evidence that people with asthma are at an increased risk of developing ARDS.
Staying healthy with asthma amid the COVID-19 pandemic
Sticking to your asthma treatment regimen to keep your asthma under control and continuing to social distance is the best way to remain healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some tips you can use to limit your exposure to COVID-19:
- Regularly disinfect surfaces at home and work
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid close contact with people who aren’t feeling well
- Stay home as much as possible
- Wear a face mask in public
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others when out in public
Together, we can keep our community healthy as we gradually restore daily life. Our team at Riviera Allergy Medical Center is here for all of your asthma and allergy care needs. To learn more, book an appointment over the phone today.