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Asthma + Coronavirus = What you need to know

Asthma + Coronavirus = What you need to know

Doctors are learning that those living with asthma are among the greatest at-risk in the coronavirus pandemic.

The elderly, and anyone with severe asthma, immunodeficiency or other chronic conditions where the immune system may be compromised, are the most susceptible to viral infections in general and must take precautions against COVID-19.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) says it's important to keep your asthma well-controlled and to continue taking your asthma medications.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a long-term (chronic) lung disease. The airways react to triggers (allergens and irritants) making it hard to breathe. With exposure to triggers, these changes occur to those with asthma:

  • The airways become swollen and inflamed.

  • The muscles around the airways tighten.

  • More mucus is made. This leads to mucus plugs.

All of these changes make the airways narrow. This makes it hard for air to go out of the lungs. And fresh oxygen can't get into the body.

What causes asthma?

Experts don't know the exact cause of asthma. They believe it is partly inherited. The environment, infections, and chemicals released by the body also play a role.

What are asthma triggers?

Exercise causes symptoms in many people with asthma. Symptoms can occur during exercise. They can also occur right after exercise. In some people, stress or strong feelings can cause symptoms.

Staying away from triggers is key in managing asthma. Triggers may be allergens, irritants, other health problems, exercise, medicines, and strong emotions. 

Asthma and COVID-19

It's important to take precautions which include keeping your asthma well-controlled and continuing to take asthma medications. No asthma medications -- including inhaled corticosteroids and biologics -- have been shown to increase the risk of getting COVID-19, according to the ACAAI.

If you do get the virus, there's no information that asthma medications will make your infection worse.

The ACAAI recommends contacting your allergist if you have any questions, have trouble breathing or your asthma symptoms become more severe.

For now, the ACAAI is advising those with asthma or who may have immunodeficiency to continue with treatments. Nebulizers should be used and cleaned properly. It's important that your asthma remains well-controlled.

Additionally, those with asthma are advised to follow these U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations:

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people who are sick

  • Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol

  • Use tissues to cover coughs and sneezes, then discard tissue immediately

  • Clean/disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched often

  • If you're sick, stay at home

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