Are asthma patients at a higher risk of Covid 19 infection? Know the facts
By Dr Hirenappa Udnur, Consultant – Pulmonologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Hebbal (A unit of Manipal Hospitals)
Ever since the pandemic has struck the world, we are flooded with many misconceptions and myths. Experts have been continuously debunking such myths that are creating panic among the masses. One such widely circulated rumour is that asthma patients are at a very higher risk of contracting the infection as compared to normal people which is not true. Asthma is a condition where a person's airways are inflamed, becomes narrow and then swell. They produce extra mucus that makes breathing difficult. Asthma can be minor or often creates difficulty in leading a normal life. In some cases, it can also be life-threatening too. How to differentiate between Covid and an asthma flare-up?
First, let us know the symptoms of Covid 19
- Loss of smell
- Loss of taste
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Skin rash
While fever is a common symptom seen in Corona patients, it is not so common in asthma
What are the similar symptoms between Covid 19 and asthma?
- Shortness of breath
- dry cough
Rapid breathing and chest tightness/congestion are common in asthma whereas these are not often witnessed in Covid patients. When asthma patients use albuterol or rescue inhaler for asthma the symptoms of asthma should almost completely subside, in case these are a result of an asthma flare. In case you are experiencing bad exasperation of asthma the symptoms will not be completely relieved but the rescue inhaler will certainly provide some amount of moderate relief. But if a person is infected with the coronavirus, he/she may not get any relief from the inhalers.
Will asthma increase the risk of contracting corona?
There is no evidence to prove that people with asthma are at greater risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. We don't have enough evidence to state that the severity of corona is more in asthma patients. Getting coronavirus comes down to an individual’s exposure to suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus or the symptomatic carrier. But it should be noted that asthma and Covid-19 affect the lungs. So, when a person has uncontrolled asthma they may experience more severe Covid-19 symptoms. That's why it is advised to manage asthma well in this pandemic condition. When to worry? With the change in weather, an asthma patient may suddenly experience asthma flare-ups and get symptoms like breathlessness or tightness in the chest. In typical cases, asthma flare-up does not lead to fever unless there is a respiratory infection. Therefore, it is important for the patients to watch out for other symptoms which were not observed during the last asthma attacks.
Listed below are the few symptoms which one have to be careful about. Consult your doctor
immediately if the asthma patients experience these signs
- High fever
- Chest pain or pressure in the chest
- Difficulty in breathing
- Asthma medications not helping the symptoms
- Persistent cough
Tips for asthma patients to keep themselves safe during Covid times:
- Keep your asthma well controlled with proper medication and use inhalers properly.
Beware of allergies that can trigger your asthma
- Do not stop your current asthma medicines or change your medication without
consulting the doctor
- Have enough supply of asthma medications
- Avoid asthma triggers, like pets, pollen or dust. Do not get exposed to the rain.
If you are allergic to pets, the animal dander may increase your flareup as you are
spending more time indoors. Avoid being around pets.
- During this time, it is natural to feel stressed and anxious which may also trigger your
asthma. Speak to your family and friends frequently
- Do not share your nebulizer with others.
- If you develop chest symptoms and if it does not subside with your regular
medications, consult the doctor immediately.
Many rumours have led to vaccine hesitancy. Vaccines have the potential to prevent infection and reduce the risk of severe illness and even death. So if you are eligible for vaccination get the shot. Try to stay at home and avoid venturing out. Follow covid appropriate behaviour and do not let your guard down.