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COVID-19 can impact a wide range of bodily systems, but it is, by definition, a respiratory virus. So it stands to reason that people with any underlying respiratory issues could face a high risk of serious complications. But recent research is showing that’s not necessarily the case.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with moderate to severe asthma “might be at increased risk”  for becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. Recent research, however, suggests that people with asthma might not face any elevated risk.

In January, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine published a meta-analysis of 150 international studies about asthma’s role in COVID-19 severity. The analysis, led by Paul D. Terry, PhD, concluded that there is not enough clear evidence to say adults with asthma are more likely to die from COVID-19 than adults without asthma. Similarly, there was no clear evidence that adults with asthma are more likely to be hospitalized or suffer serious complications from COVID-19.

Another, more recent analysis of 18 studies conducted earlier in the pandemic found similar results. The analysis, which was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAI), included data on more than 76,000 COVID-19 patients. The researchers, led by Andrea Sitek, MD, a Mayo Clinic allergist, found that having asthma did not increase a patient’s risk of hospitalization, hospital stay, ICU admission, or death.

The AAAI meeting featured another study on COVID and asthma, which was led by allergist Lacy Robinson, MD. The study, which was also published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,  examined data from the Massachusetts General Hospital COVID-19 Registry. They compared the records of 562 patients with asthma and 2,686 patients without. Again, the news was good: People with asthma were not any more likely to die or require mechanical ventilation than those without it.   

Are People with Asthma Less Likely to Be Affected by COVID-19 than Previously Thought?

“What we showed and what others have shown is that asthma alone really isn’t a risk factor for severe outcomes from COVID-19, and that is great news for asthma patients,” Dr. Robinson told MedPage Today.

However, researchers acknowledge that more work is needed to understand the risks that asthmatic patients may or may not face with COVID, including the impact of asthma-related inflammation and the use of inhaled corticosteroids.

As we continue to learn more about the coronavirus and its impact on asthma patients, people with asthma should continue to practice recommended precautions, such as getting the vaccine, wearing a face mask, and social distancing, and follow their asthma action plans.

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Boyles S. No Special Risk for Severe COVID in Asthma. Medpage Today. March 2, 2021. https://www.medpagetoday.com/meetingcoverage/aaaai/91437.

COVID-19: People With Certain Medical Conditions. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. February 22, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html.

Robinson LB. COVID-19 severity in hospitalized patients with asthma: A matched cohort study. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. January 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/02770903.2020.1857396.

Sitek A. COVID-19-Associated Hospitalization and Outcomes in Patients with Asthma: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. February 1, 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2020.12.032.

Terry PD. Asthma in Adult Patients with COVID-19: Prevalence and Risk of Severe Disease. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine: August 24, 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1164/rccm.202008-3266OC.

When Asthma Is Not Just Asthma: Type 2 Inflammation. Allergy and Asthma Network. https://allergyasthmanetwork.org/news/when-asthma-not-just-asthma-type-inflammation.