It’s more important than ever to take asthma symptoms seriously because those with the chronic condition may be at risk for developing more severe cases of COVID-19. Karen Brown, MD, medical director of primary care for Northeast Medical Group, recommends patients reach out to their primary care doctor, pulmonologist or other healthcare provider to make sure their asthma is in check.
“Untreated asthma tends to get worse. It’s not just that you feel worse on any day if you’re not treating your asthma, it’s actually that asthma tends to get worse when it is not treated. So treatment is important,” she said.
There are other steps patients can take on their own. Dr. Brown shared her advice below.
Practice COVID-19 Prevention
Dr. Brown said wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing are still the most powerful tools we have in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Patients with asthma may want to take extra precautions. That might mean avoiding unmasked indoor gatherings or indoor dining at restaurants as well as large events.
“Certainly as far as social events, I think being more careful, staying home more often and really avoiding situations that would be high risk of COVID-19 is really important for people with asthma,” Dr. Brown said.
Treat Your Symptoms
Common asthma symptoms include coughing or wheezing. Those with mild symptoms may be able to take a medication or low dose inhaled steroid that coats the airway. Stronger steroids are available for more moderate asthma and injections can help with severe cases.
Regardless of the severity, Dr. Brown said everyone with asthma should carry a rescue inhaler that can relieve symptoms with just a few puffs. Using an inhaler regularly can settle inflammation, helping those with asthma from getting more severe cases of COVID-19.
In addition to treating symptoms, avoid common allergens. In the fall when ragweed is in season, keep windows closed and use an air purifier. If you’re allergic to dust or dust mites, wash bedding regularly and keep your home clean. Other common allergens includes smoke from cigarettes, pets, mold and some cleaning products.
Reach Out For Help
If symptoms worsen, ask your doctor for help. Dr. Brown said she often sees people who minimize or even ignore their symptoms.
“They breathe hard when they’re doing things so they stop doing things. And that doesn’t help, that doesn’t make the asthma controlled,” Dr. Brown said. “It just means you’re hiding the symptoms from yourself. So seek advice and make sure you’re getting the best treatment possible.”