covid-19 and asthma

Canadian researchers may have found a link between asthma and COVID-19

COVID-19 and asthma may be linked, according to an early report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Researchers Elissa M. Abrams, Geert W.'t Jong, and Connie L. Yang have found "some evidence to date that those with asthma are overrepresented among the adult patients who have been admitted to hospital with corona­virus disease 2019."

U.S. CDC guidelines also support a link between asthma and COVID-19, listing moderate-to-severe asthma as a risk factor for the virus.

However, Canadian researchers believe that COVID-19 might actually trigger asthma exacerbations, meaning that asthma sufferers are more likely to feel the respiratory effects of the virus — but not necessarily more likely to contract it.

Despite the new findings, Winnipeg pediatric allergist immunologist Elissa M. Abrams warns that there's still "a lot of limitations" in the current literature.

"In general, viruses are a very common cause of asthma exacerbation, but it's important to know that different viruses do interplay with asthma differently," Abrams says.

During SARS in 2003, for example, Abrams says that asthma exacerbations actually decreased, likely due to Canadians taking more hygiene measures.

And while COVID-19 and asthma do seem to be linked, Canadian researchers require more data — particularly because Wuhan's data on hospitalized adults doesn't list asthma as a risk factor, making it difficult to draw any conclusions.

There also isn't enough data on the link between children with asthma and COVID-19, Abrams notes.

"We don't know enough about how this virus interacts with children who have asthma — we just don't have the data in our pediatric population," she says. "So while asthma is listed as a risk factor in adults, it isn't in children to date."

Abrams' advice to asthmatic Canadians? Stay on your medication, but avoid nebulizers, since they can aerosolise COVID-19 and increase the rate of viral transmission.

Patients should continue to use oral steroids for moderate-to-severe asthma exacerbations.

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