Asthma Attacks In Relation to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Last updated: September 2023
If you have asthma, you probably have many questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. You may wonder if you are more likely to get sick from COVID-19 or have a worse outcome than someone without asthma. You are right be to concerned, since COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists asthma as a risk factor.1
Information about COVID continues to change as we learn more about it. So far, studies have not shown if having asthma increases your risk of getting COVID-19.1
It might be surprising, but the pandemic has seemed to improve asthma symptoms for many. That is right: studies have shown that both adults and children have had fewer asthma attacks during the pandemic.2-4
How does having asthma affect your chances of getting COVID-19?
Most studies have found there is no greater risk of COVID-19 severity in people with asthma. There also have been no studies that show asthma is a risk factor for catching COVID-19.1
One study did find an increase in severity of COVID-19 in people with asthma. However, it is not clear if those people also had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is a well-known risk factor for COVID-19.1,5
Another study looked at COVID-19 outcomes for people who had previous treatment for asthma. They found these people were at more risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes.1
One early report found people with asthma had a lower death rate when hospitalized for COVID-19, but this has not been recreated. All in all, there is conflicting evidence that asthma impacts either your chances of getting COVID-19 or your outcome.1
The pandemic’s effects on asthma attacks
People with asthma have reported their symptoms getting better since the pandemic started. Indeed, hospitals and emergency departments have seen fewer cases of asthma attacks.2
One study looked at Black and Hispanic people with moderate to severe asthma. They found that asthma attacks decreased by more than 40 percent after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.3
This trend was also seen in children with asthma. Studies have found that children with asthma are not at more risk of respiratory tract infections, fevers, hospital visits, or emergency room visits. Also, compared to past years, there were fewer reported asthma symptoms and hospital visits due to asthma.4
Why is this happening?
At first, doctors thought people with asthma were just avoiding emergency departments due to the pandemic. But this theory has since changed.2
There is little evidence to show that people with asthma are avoiding hospitals when they need one. But there are many reasons why people could have had fewer asthma symptoms, including:2,3,6
- Less exposure to cold and flu viruses
- More consistent use of prescribed asthma drugs
- Less exposure to irritants at work or school
- Lower levels of air pollution and pollen due to lockdowns
- Staying at home more
What does this mean for you during the pandemic and beyond?
The CDC does still list asthma as a risk factor for COVID-19. It is important to take care to keep your lungs healthy and avoid catching it. This will better prepare you to fend off viruses, infections, allergens, and irritants.
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 reduces your chances of catching the virus and harming your lungs. It is also important to keep taking your asthma medicine and talk to your doctor if any symptoms develop.7
Other ways to keep your lungs healthy include:2,6
- Make sure your asthma drugs are current, not expired
- Avoid your asthma triggers
- Wearing a face mask when indoors and in crowds
- Wash your hands regularly
- Maintain social distancing when possible
- Take personal steps to reduce air pollution, such as biking instead of driving
As always, it is important to check in with your healthcare team about ways to manage your asthma and triggers.
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