Are people with respiratory diseases like COPD and asthma at risk during the Covid-19 pandemic? According to The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), a detailed investigation of 140 hospitals in Wuhan, China determined that 

“Allergic diseases, asthma and COPD are not risk factors for SARS‐CoV‐2 infection.”

However, the Respiratory Health Association of America cautions that while people with COPD are not at a higher risk for getting infected with the coronavirus, they are at a greater danger of experiencing complications if they do become infected. 

Today at FindMeCure we want to get to the bottom of this and give you some actionable advice on how to protect yourself if you have COPD, asthma or another respiratory condition. We cannot estimate your risk percentage or replace the insight of your doctor who has been treating you for a long time and knows the specifics of your disease. What we can do is offer reassurance, present the information that is out there in the most comprehensible way and give you another perspective. 

Quit smoking now

If you have been diagnosed with a pulmonary dísease (especially in the case of asthma which is characterised by frequent cases of childhood onset), chances are you don’t even think about cigarettes. However, there is some notable research that suggests not nearly enough people diagnosed with COPD or asthma quit smoking after diagnosis

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide and the only major disease increasing in prevalence on all continents. Despite the fact that smoking is the single biggest cause of the disease, many people with COPD find it hard to quit. 

If COPD or asthma hasn’t given you enough reason to put the cigarette down Covid-19 might be the push you need. According to the Respiratory Health Association, “smokers infected with COVID-19 are nearly 1.5 times more likely to have severe symptoms and 2.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU, need mechanical ventilation, or die compared to non-smokers.”

It’s never too late to quit. Changes in your lung capacity occur as early as 24 hours after your last cigarette. Quitting tobacco use is the single best preventative measure you can take against Covid-19 complications. 

Know your flare-ups and be prepared

It may be hard to distinguish between a COPD or asthma flare-up and the symptoms of Covid-19. However, most specialists agree that what can set them apart is fever – a COPD flare-up is not associated with fever and neither is asthma so if you want some peace of mind you can take your temperature daily. 

Something else you can do is have an action plan for your flare-ups – this is where journaling or using an app can really help. Know the signs before a flare-up has even begun so you can be prepared and calm in the knowledge that it’s not Covid-19 but rather your condition causing the change. 

Some signs of a COPD exacerbation include shortness of breath for a prolonged period, a persistent cough, more sputum typically with a change of consistency or colour. You should seek urgent help if your chest feels thigh or heavy, you feel and are getting sick or there is pain and it spreads to your arms, back, neck and jaw. 

People with COPD should have a rescue pack of drugs in case their reliever inhaler doesn’t help with the initial exacerbation. Make sure you have discussed with your doctor when to start taking steroids and when to start antibiotics. If you are prepared in advance this will give you some peace of mind and a feeling of control over the situation. If your symptoms don’t improve within 2 days of starting your rescue pack call your doctor to let them know and discuss what else can be done. 

Practice social distancing the right way

People who live with asthma or COPD can take some extra precautions to distance themselves even if the quarantine regulations in your country are not so tight. You should have at least a month’s supply of your prescribed medication and stock up (in moderation) on the household items you use the most so you won’t have to go grocery shopping too often. 

Ask your management if working from home is an option and let them know about your condition and risk of complications. Make sure to not isolate yourself completely – schedule regular virtual dates with your friends and co-workers because panic grows in isolation. It’s important to stay level-headed to be able to make important discernments and take care of your health. 

Check with your oxygen supplier and ask about the precautions they’re taking in light of Covid-19. Your routine oxygen needs cannot go unmet even in times of a pandemic. If home health care providers assist you in any way make sure they take every safety measure necessary. 

It’s very important to stay as active as possible even at home. Exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes or more – we say this a lot here on the blog but exercise truly is one of the best ways you can practice disease prevention. Go up and down the stairs, walk around your house, do some chores that require more exertion, dance or march in place. Remember that deep breathing exercises are still important too – if you are interested you can practice meditation or yoga focused around the breath for more relief as well as a way to manage anxiety.

If you are considering joining a clinical trial for COPD, asthma or another respiratory disease please keep in mind that there can be a delay as many trials are either trying to go virtual or remote as a way to ensure patient safety at this time or have postponed recruitment altogether. In either case, we remain dedicated to our mission to help patients find the right treatment so we will do our best to help with your search and connect you to the team in charge of your preferred study.

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