Asthma & Coronavirus: Does It Increase COVID-19 Risks?

coronavirus This photo from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a microscopic view of the Coronavirus at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia.

COVID-19 is especially dangerous for people with underlying conditions, but anyone can be at risk from coronavirus. Just what are the risks for people with asthma? Here are more details.

Asthma Is an Underlying Condition that Can Increase Your Risk of Complications

According to the CDC, asthma is one of the underlying conditions that could increase the risk of someone developing a serious case of COVID-19.  The CDC specifically notes that people at higher risk include “people with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.”

If you have asthma, you should take the risk of coronavirus exposure seriously, the CDC notes.

People with asthma may be at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.  COVID-19 can affect your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs), cause an asthma attack, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.”

The best way to take the risk seriously is by isolating at home and minimizing contact and exposure as much as possible, including washing your hands frequently.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), if you have a fever or cough and have asthma, you should continue treating your asthma and tell your doctor. AAFA notes: “You need to make sure your asthma is under control. This often requires the use of inhaled corticosteroids (and sometimes oral corticosteroids). Inhaled corticosteroids do not likely reduce your immune system’s ability to fight infections, but oral corticosteroids may.”

AAFA also notes that antihistamines don’t suppress your immune system, so if you’re taking those, they shouldn’t increase your chance of catching the virus.

The UK takes things very seriously when it comes to asthma and COVID-19. This can be another good barometer for people with asthma.

According to the Asthma UK website, the UK has released guidelines for people with asthma who may be at higher risk if they catch the coronavirus. This includes people with asthma who meet the following conditions: 

  • Anyone taking a biologic therapy, daily steroid tablets or liquid, antibiotic tablets or liquid weekly, tiotropium, a combination inhaler at a high daily steroid dose, or an inhaler at a high daily steroid dose AND taking Montelukast
  • Anyone who has been admitted to the hospital for asthma in the past 12 months
  • Anyone ever admitted to intensive care for asthma

In the UK, any people in the categories above are asked to avoid face-to-face contact and to stay home for 12 weeks at least, get food and essential items delivered with contactless delivery, call the doctor via phone or online services, minimize non-essential contact with people they live with at home, and to call 111 immediately if they get a fever or a new, continuous cough. These people should not wait until their symptoms worsen. This doesn’t mean that others with asthma might not also have risks, but it indicates that people in the categories above are considered a high enough risk that they need to take even more precautions.

The CDC Lists 10 Categories for Underlying Conditions

The CDC released a document on March 12, 2020 titled “Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission.” In that document, they listed the underlying conditions that could put a person at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19.

The document lists what the CDC considers to be underlying conditions that can increase your risk. Here’s a direct quote from the CDC’s document.

  • Blood disorders (e.g., sickle cell disease or on blood thinners)
  • Chronic kidney disease as defined by your doctor. Patient has been told to avoid or reduce the dose of medications because kidney disease, or is under treatment for kidney disease, including receiving dialysis
  • Chronic liver disease as defined by your doctor. (e.g., cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis) Patient has been told to avoid or reduce the dose of medications because liver disease or is under treatment for liver disease.
  • Compromised immune system (immunosuppression) (e.g., seeing a doctor for cancer and treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation, received an organ or bone marrow transplant, taking high doses of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant medications, HIV or AIDS)
  • Current or recent pregnancy in the last two weeks
  • Endocrine disorders (e.g., diabetes mellitus)
  • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
  • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
  • Lung disease including asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis or emphysema) or other chronic conditions associated with impaired lung function or that require home oxygen
  • Neurological and neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability, moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury].

The CDC specifically called out diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease as common underlying conditions here. On this page, the CDC lists high-risk conditions as including being aged 65 or older, living in a nursing home or long-term care facility, or people with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, people with serious heart conditions, people who are immunocompromised (including for cancer treatment), people with severe obesity (a BMI greater than or equal to 40) or certain uncontrolled underlying conditions like diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease.