The Coronavirus and Asthma: Recommendations

Controlling asthma in asthmatic patients is essential during the coronavirus pandemic. Asthmatics are a risk group that should take special precautions.
The Coronavirus and Asthma: Recommendations

Last update: 09 June, 2020

Coronaviruses can cause anything from mild symptoms to severe and even fatal respiratory diseases. So, what are the recommendations regarding coronavirus and asthma based on what’s currently known about the virus?

What do we know about the coronavirus?

SARS-CoV-2, known as COVID-19, is a new coronavirus that was previously unknown before its detection in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Being so new means that experts are constantly updating their recommendations and advice as they find out more about the virus.

Transmission occurs through close contact with an infected patient. This occurs through respiratory droplets generated when a person coughs or sneezes, or through saliva droplets or nasal secretions.

Coronavirus disease manifests itself, in most cases, in a mild form with a fever, cough and a sore throat. However, it may progress to a more severe form and cause pneumonia and difficulty breathing. In many cases, as we sadly know, it can be fatal. Older people and people with some associated diseases – such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma – seem to be most at risk.

A doctor with an x-ray.
Asthma is often exacerbated when patients get viral or bacterial respiratory infections

What is asthma?

Asthma is a relatively common disease that affects both adults and children which usually begins during childhood

It’s a chronic respiratory disease that irritates the bronchial tubes as a result of different environmental stimuli. These stimuli include plant pollen, smoke, emotions, laughter, exercise, and certain medications. Sometimes it isn’t possible to discover the particular stimuli that cause specific asthmatic attacks.

The symptoms you’ll experience are coughing, a feeling of tightness in your chest, wheezing, or shortness of breath. This can come on suddenly and are called asthma flare-ups, or attacks. However, there is still debate on the difference between an asthma flare-up and an asthma attack.

We also know that there’s a strong association between viral respiratory infections and asthma attacks.

Treatment of asthma

The treatment of asthma includes follow-ups by the family doctor or pulmonologist, to avoid relapses or asthma attacks.

Asthma sufferers use different types of medication, mostly through inhalation. They can take them permanently, as preventive medication, or at the time they have the asthma attacks. There are other types of medication too, such as the oral and subcutaneous forms.

In mild attacks, it’s usually enough to have the general practitioner or pulmonologist adjust your treatment to deal with them when they occur. On occasions, when the crises are more serious, the patient may require medical attention, including – very occasionally – hospitalization.

Finally, we need to point out that discontinuing preventive medication often leads to a potentially dangerous worsening for patients with asthma.

A man coughing.
Asthma is a respiratory disease, and as such, it increases the risk of suffering from a severe form of COVID-19.

What do experts say about coronavirus and asthma?

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies asthma as a chronic medical condition. They have stated that people with asthma are among the people most at risk of becoming seriously ill when contracting coronavirus infection. Other individual experts also agree.

In addition, experts know that viral respiratory infections can make asthma worse. This is why the coronavirus may act in the same way as other known viruses.

For people with asthma during this time of the pandemic, experts recommend they take into account the general indications that have been given to the whole population, plus some extra specific recommendations.

Just like in the times that seasonal flu is prevalent, the asthmatic patient must protect him or herself from viral circulation. It’s advisable to continue taking preventive medication if indicated by your doctor. For patients who aren’t using it, it may be advisable to consult with their doctor to see whether it may be a good idea to start taking it.

If the asthma sufferer needs to go to emergency services because of a severe asthma attack, then experts recommend that they take their own inhalation medication and make sure they let their doctor or pulmonologist know about the attack.

Controlling your asthma to protect yourself from the coronavirus

Overall, the best recommendations regarding coronavirus and asthma are for patients with asthma to make sure they’re controlling their condition correctly, in addition to the general recommendations. This will minimize the risk of attacks and consequent visits to the hospital. After all, every visit to the doctor’s or the hospital can increase the risk of exposure to coronavirus.

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  • Salas-Asencios, Ramses, et al. “CORONAVIRUS COVID-19: CONOCIENDO AL CAUSANTE DE LA PANDEMIA.” The Biologist 18.1 (2020).
  • Shaker, Marcus S., et al. “COVID-19: Pandemic Contingency Planning for the Allergy and Immunology Clinic.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice (2020).
  • Bansal, Priya, et al. “Clinician Wellness During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Extraordinary Times and Unusual Challenges for the Allergist/Immunologist.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice (2020).
  • JA Castro-Rodríguez, Association between asthma and viral infections,  Volume 67, Issue 2, August 2007, Pages 161-168.