Feeling confused as to why Covid-19 is a bigger deal than Influenza and what the ramifications could be for those with asthma? It has to do with RNA sequencing and genetics.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) is a new-to-humans virus that severely affects the respiratory system. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing, wheezing, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. While the symptoms are similar to that of a cold or the flu, the newness of the virus means that humans have no immunity against it. Consequently, it spreads rapidly through bodily contact and fluids.
An interesting thing about COVID-19 is that it can be spread from both animals to humans as well as from humans to humans. Healthcare professionals are currently working around the clock to develop a vaccine that will stop the spread of this virus.
Who is at the Greatest Risk?
While Covid-19 is by no means fatal for everyone who encounters it, it does pose serious risks to certain individuals. Those at greater risk include the elderly, the very young, and those with chronic health diseases like asthma.
Since humans already possess little immunity to the virus, those with weakened immune systems have a harder time fighting off the symptoms.
Seasonal flu is a human virus and recognized by our immune systems. Past exposure means you have some small measure of immunity each time you encounter the flu virus. Novel viruses are passed from animal to animal. The WHO tracks novel viruses, watching for mutations. Once they mutate, the viruses have the potential to jump from animals to humans. H1N1 moved from pigs to humans and the deadly Spanish Flu originated with birds. In the case of novel viruses like the Coronavirus, people have no built-in immunity and it could be even more serious for asthmatics.
The Coronavirus has mutated twice since it first passed from animals to humans in Wuhan China. The short time between mutations classifies it as “slippery” by scientists. It’s fast-changing and unpredictable. That’s why Coronavirus is different from seasonal flu, or H1N1 or any other type of influenza.
We’ve known for many years that individuals with asthma have a higher risk of lung infections than others.
Asthma Sufferers Take Control
If you or a loved one suffer from asthma, you need to stay especially on guard against COVID-19. Since the virus attacks your lungs, it has the potential to compromise your health in multiple ways, including triggering asthma attacks. While there is little known about the overall effects of the virus on people with asthma, you can still protect yourself by taking the following preventative measures.
1. Avoid public areas.
Traveling, partying, or strolling through the general public is not a good idea. The coronavirus spreads quickly through the community, so embrace the idea of “social distancing” until the worst has passed.
2. Wash your hands.
You have likely heard it a thousand times already but wash your hands constantly. Your hands touch your eyes, nose, mouth, food, TV remote, belongings, etc. If you happen to come in contact with COVID-19, your hands are capable of spreading it faster than you think. Take care to sanitize regularly-used items once or twice a day, including your phone, computer, or and tablet.
3. Refrain from physical contact.
Hugs, handshakes, and close contact are off-limits for a while. Every person is a potential carrier, and although it may be difficult, your life and health are worth a little distance.
4. Take extra care of your asthma.
More than ever, keep a close eye on your asthma symptoms, triggers, flare-ups, etc. Keep track of important information, take your prescribed asthma medication, and stay in constant communication with your doctor. While many individuals dismiss the coronavirus as nothing more than a mass panic, it needs to be taken seriously. Your lung health is of the utmost priority.
Do you have COVID-19?
If you suspect you have the coronavirus or even the flu, call your doctor and let them know immediately. Give them the chance to take any necessary precautions before visiting the office. There is no need to panic, but “letting the sickness run its course” is never a good idea in the case of those with chronic health conditions.
Common Questions About COVID-19 & Asthma
1. Do people with Asthma face a higher risk of severe illness if they get COVID-19?
Evidence, so far, shows that asthmatics do not face a higher risk than anyone else of contracting COVID-19. Evidence also suggests that asthmatics are at no higher risk than anyone else of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome, a severe illness, from COVID-19. It is possible that a respiratory virus, such as COVID-19, could trigger asthma symptoms.
2. What should I do to protect myself?
Get or keep your asthma under control. Follow the individualized asthma action given by your doctor and then check in with your doctor to find out if there are other steps you can take to prevent contracting COVID-19.
3. Can I keep using steroid medications?
It is not recommended that you discontinue using steroid medications unless your doctor directs that you do so.
4. Are nebulizers okay to use at home?
It is recommended that those who do use a nebulizer only use it in a room that is away from other family members so that the risk of contamination is minimized.