Medical experts still learning exactly what happens in a person’s body during COVID-19, but they do know quite a bit about how coronavirus affects a person’s lungs during infection. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can cause a dry cough and shortness of breath, so it likely comes as no surprise that it can wreak havoc on the intricate respiratory system lying inside a person’s chest. Once the virus gains entry, it begins to cause injury to a person’s airways and lungs. While anyone can get infected with the new coronavirus, some people have a higher risk of developing a more serious illness — including people with moderate-to-severe asthma. To protect our health and prevent the spread of COVID-19, each and every one of us should be practising universal preventive measures, including social distancing, wearing masks in public and using excellent hand hygiene. But what some focused preventive measures for asthma patients and how can you take better care of yourself?
TC46 connected with Pulmonologist Dr Preyas Vaidya of Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai to better understand the correlation between COVID-19 and asthma on World Asthma Day. Here, he answers 10 of the most vital questions about asthma and the coronavirus.
1. What is asthma and what are the different stages of asthma
Asthma is a respiratory condition in which a person’s airways get inflamed, narrowed, and swollen and produce extra mucus, which makes it difficult to breathe. Asthma can be minor, or it can interfere with daily activities. In some cases, it may lead to a life-threatening attack. It can be divided into four stages based on the frequency of symptoms and on the severity of the condition.
Mild Intermittent Asthma: Mild symptoms of Asthma occurs no more than two days per week or two times a month
Mild Persistent Asthma: Mild symptoms occur more often than twice per week
Moderate Persistent Asthma: Increasingly severe symptoms of asthma occur daily and at least one night each week. Flare-ups also last several days.
Severe Persistent Asthma: At this stage, symptoms occur several times per day almost every day. You may also experience symptoms many nights each week. This stage of asthma may not respond well to treatment
2. How different or similar is asthma in adults and children?
Childhood asthma and adult asthma have the same symptoms, and both have similar treatments. However, children with asthma face different challenges. Many cases of adult asthma are triggered by allergies. Children with allergies may not experience asthma from exposure to allergens when they are younger; yet over time, their bodies can change and react differently. This can lead to adult asthma.
3. Does asthma increase the risks of developing COVID?
Symptoms of COVID-19 may be more severe and may lead to poor outcomes if people with asthma get infected. There is no evidence of increased infection rates in those with asthma. However, people with asthma need to be especially diligent in protecting themselves from the virus through measures such as handwashing, double masking, and staying away from those who are sick.
4. What are some protection measures a person with asthma should take to prevent Covid-19 infections?
Precautionary measures to be taken include:
- Wear a double mask while venturing out
- Be extremely careful with nebulizers. Nebulizers are said to be very effective for treating asthma symptoms, but it aerosolizes droplets from the airways, which are then spread into the air. This allows viruses or other microbes to be transmitted by the nebulizer
- Eat healthy and stay hygienic
- Stay alert with symptoms of asthma and COVID19
- It is important to note that respiratory illnesses may worsen asthma, so continue taking your Asthma control medicines and make sure that your asthma is in control
5. What should be done if you have asthma and test positive for Covid-19?
The treatment and measures for COVID19 patients remain the same for all. People with asthma should be careful of any breathing problems and immediately report them to their caregivers and doctors.
6. What are some special measures asthma patients need to take if they have early signs of Covid-19 related pneumonia?
Get a Chest CT and other pathological tests done as per your doctor’s recommendation. Check for oxygen levels, if the level is below 94% seek immediate medical aid.
7. How do asthma medications react with Covid-19 medications?
There are some studies that suggest medical inhalers used by asthmatic patients can reduce the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in lung cells and limit the risk of hospitalization in COVID patients. However, in India, research is underway, and we need to wait until conclusive data is evidenced.
8. What are some home remedies for a person with asthma who has tested positive?
Firstly, people with asthma need to continue taking their prescribed medications to prevent exacerbations of their asthma. Secondly, it is vital for patients with asthma to reduce airway inflammation and minimize the risk of exacerbations as much as possible. Thirdly, recognize different asthma triggers and stay alert when asthma symptoms are getting worse.
9. When is it necessary to go to the hospital or get some medical assistance?
When the oxygen level is below 94% and a patient is finding it difficult to breathe or manage symptoms at home, it is necessary to be hospitalized.
10. What are the vitals to monitor and the threshold for oxygen, temperature, ct, if you test positive for Covid as an asthma patient?
For the vitals:
- Oxygen: More than 95%
- Temperature: less than 98 degrees
CT score: The score is out of 25. The higher the score, the more severe is the infection