Coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2 (meaning severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), which was discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
COVID-19 isn’t the first type of coronavirus to affect humans; in fact, many different strains of coronaviruses can affect humans and animals, such as mammals and birds. Some coronavirus strains only cause mild respiratory symptoms, such as sneezing and a runny nose. Coronaviruses are a common cause of the common cold, which is one of the most common and mild illnesses which can affect humans.
Other types of coronaviruses, however, can cause severe and even lethal diseases. Different strains of coronaviruses have causes epidemics and pandemics in the past, including the Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV), β-CoV, and the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), β-CoV. Coronaviruses are characterized by having spikes on their surfaces, which create an image similar to a solar corona — hence their name.
COVID-19 has spread across the globe rapidly; as of late May 2020, more than 5.15 million cases have been diagnosed in 188 countries. Due to testing shortages in many different countries and asymptomatic carriers, it’s almost certain that the number of cases is much higher than that.
The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is primarily spread through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Keep in mind that infected patients can spread the disease even during the incubation period (anywhere between 2-14 days after exposure), while they’re still asymptomatic. In some cases, asymptomatic carriers can spread the disease without ever developing symptoms themselves.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 can include:
- Loss of smell and taste
- Shortness of breath
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
However, COVID-19 can also produce less common symptoms, such as skin lesions, a sore throat, nasal discharge, and sneezing. In most cases, COVID-19 causes mild symptoms and patients achieve a full recovery in approximately two weeks. But some patients can develop a more severe and sometimes, a fatal form of the disease. Patients with severe cases of COVID-19 often need to be hospitalized or admitted to the ICU.
Some of the severe complications that can stem from COVID-19 include:
- Acute respiratory failure
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
- Cardiac injury
- Secondary infections
- Liver injury
- Coagulation disorders
- Severe kidney injury (AKI)
Can asthma increase my risk of developing complications from COVID-19?
Having asthma won’t increase your risk of catching SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. However, it could potentially increase your risk of developing severe symptoms of the disease.
But just like many other aspects surrounding COVID-19, there’s still not enough scientific evidence regarding the correlation between COVID-19 and asthma. While some studies suggest worse outcomes and an increased risk of hospitalization for patients with both diseases, other studies have shown no such risk.
We’re still discovering new information about COVID-19 each day, which is why it’s so important to take all the necessary precautions to prevent its spread. Although some underlying conditions can increase the risk of developing complications from this disease, even young and healthy patients have suffered from severe and sometimes fatal cases of COVID-19.
What can I do to protect myself against COVID-19?
The most important and useful measure that we can all take against COVID-19 is to follow social distancing guidelines. Most countries around the world have adopted social distancing and lockdowns to varying degrees to protect their population better.
Even as restrictions are slowly lifted, it’s essential to keep in mind that the virus hasn’t disappeared and can still affect us. If you’re part of a high-risk group for COVID-19 complications, it may be safer for you to limit or avoid close contact with other people if possible.
Make sure you follow your country’s guidelines regarding the use of face masks, and wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently. Avoid touching your face whenever you leave home and avoid all forms of unnecessary travel. If someone in your household contracts the virus, avoid sharing personal items, and take steps to maintain distance from them within the home.
If you use controller medications to manage your asthma, continue to take them as prescribed by your doctor. It may also be helpful to keep a 2 to 3 week supply of your medications at hand to avoid having to visit the pharmacy or risk running out of your drugs. Consider discussing this option with your healthcare provider and get a prescription if necessary.
Although some studies have reported complications in patients with COVID-19 who have received steroids — a type of medication commonly used for asthma —, these studies haven’t studied the use of these drugs on patients with underlying asthma.
Discontinuing your asthma medications against your doctor’s orders could put you at a higher risk for asthma attacks, which could worsen your COVID-19 symptoms and negatively impact your respiratory capacity.
It would help if you also tried to avoid known triggers for your asthma, such as cleaning products with strong scents. Having an asthma exacerbation could require a visit to the ER, where you could have a higher risk of contracting the virus.
What to do if you have asthma and get COVID-19
If you experience symptoms of COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider to learn which steps you should take. Your doctor may suggest that you get tested to obtain a definitive diagnosis, and they will indicate how you should do this. If your asthma action plan hasn’t been updated recently or if your asthma is poorly managed, it’s essential to contact your provider to get updated treatment instructions.
Most physicians are handling non-emergency patients via phone or video call, and they probably won’t ask you to come to the clinic or hospital unless it’s necessary.
Symptomatic treatment is often prescribed for patients with mild symptoms. This type of therapy can include taking analgesics and antipyretics, such as paracetamol. Unless otherwise stated by your physician, you should continue to follow your asthma action plan.
Call emergency services if your COVID-19 symptoms get worse or you exhibit signs of respiratory distress. If you require care from emergency providers, make sure to inform them of your COVID-19 symptoms as soon as possible.
Meds at Arm’s Length
It will be helpful to have your medical device such as Asthma Inhaler and Spacer and other essential meds at arm’s length during an emergency. PracMedic Bags® offers an Insulated, Lockable, and Compact Medical Bag that will hold your vital meds for quick access. It is printed with a medic symbol for quick identification, so anyone knows it’s a Medical Bag.
Click here to find out more about PRACMEDIC T-MEDS Medical Bag