Why a lung condition makes you an easy target for COVID-19

At this point, it’s common knowledge that people with other health conditions have a greater risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19.

But among that overall group, there may be a smaller group that’s even more at risk… people with pre-existing lung conditions.

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection, and it can have a dangerous impact on your lower respiratory tract (aka your lungs). It can inflame the lung lining and the air sacs at the bottom of the lungs. When those air sacs become inflamed, the lungs can fill with fluid, which leads to pneumonia. Inflamed lung air sacs can also prevent oxygen from getting to the bloodstream in high enough doses, which can cause organ failure.

Since people with lung conditions already have weaker lungs, they have a harder time fighting off all respiratory infections, including COVID-19.

But exactly how much greater is your risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19 if you have a pre-existing lung condition?

That’s hard to answer precisely since the research on COVID-19 is still emerging. But a new study shows people with lung conditions may indeed be the ones with the most to worry about during this pandemic.

The stakes of COVID-19 are much higher for people with COPD

Recent research from University College London’s Institute for Global Health identified the single greatest risk factor for severe COVID-19 — a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is a long-term lung disease in which the lungs become inflamed, making it difficult to breathe. The driving factors behind COPD are usually emphysema or chronic bronchitis and sometimes even asthma.

Related: 4 ways to naturally relieve COPD symptoms

In this study, researchers pooled data from seven Chinese studies that included a total of 1,813 people who were hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

After analyzing risk factors, they found that people with COPD were 6.4 times more likely to have severe COVID-19. They were also 17.8 times more likely to end up in the intensive care unit.

That’s an incredibly high risk. But you may be wondering how people with other lung conditions are impacted by COVID-19. According to this study, people who experienced shortness of breath were 3.7 times more likely to have a severe case of COVID-19 and 6.6 times more likely to end up in the intensive care unit than people without shortness of breath.

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As you know, lung conditions already cause shortness of breath, wheezing and other related symptoms. Add COVID-19 to the mix and it’s quite a dangerous situation.

Take extra special care if you or a loved one has lung issues

You may have read that certain medications are not advisable because they can weaken the immune system, namely steroids.

But that may not apply to people with lung conditions. According to Dr. Juanita Mora with the American Lung Association, talk to your doctor before stopping any medications. Her recommendations?

Control is the most important thing for your asthma and allergic rhinitis. If you use inhaled corticosteroids, or intranasal steroids, there’s probably not a risk to developing a weakened immune system. If you use oral corticosteroids, there’s a slight increase of a suppressed immune system. If you’re in an asthma flare, your healthcare provider can help you decide which medications are the right choice to help you breathe.

Recently she addressed myths pertaining to asthma, COPD and COVID-19. She clarified that Albuterol or quick relief rescue inhalers are bronchodilators and not corticosteroids. They relax the muscles in your airways when you’re having symptoms. You can and should continue to use your rescue inhaler as needed for asthma symptoms. She says the most important thing is to have your asthma well-controlled so that if infection does occur, your lungs are better able to handle the virus.

So, if you or a loved one have a pre-existing lung condition, please take this COVID-19 crisis very seriously.

Make sure you have plenty of your medications on hand. Practice social distancing. In fact, at this point, I’d recommend asking someone else to buy groceries and other essentials for you. Or use a grocery delivery service, if you don’t have anyone to do that for you. Don’t leave your house right now… it’s not worth the risk.

And of course, follow other commonsense precautions like washing your hands frequently, not touching your face and cleaning objects and surfaces in your house. Do everything you can to keep yourself safe until this pandemic passes.

Editor’s Note: If your blood pressure is high and you have blocked arteries, your heart is already working harder than normal compromising lung capacity. That’s how the coronavirus can become a catalyst to a heart attack. Dr. Michael Cutler, M.D. has written the most informative book on hushed up natural heart cures you likely won’t ever hear from your own doctor. For a preview—just click here!

Sources:

  1. COVID-19 in Chronic Lung Disease: What You Need to Know — Pulmonology Advisor
  2. COVID-19 Preparation Recommendations From the COPD Foundation — Pulmonology Advisor
  3. 10 common health conditions that may increase risk of death from the coronavirus, including diabetes and heart disease — Business Insider
  4. Patients with breathing, lung problems at highest risk with COVID-19 – study — Reuters
  5. COPD — Mayo Clinic
  6. Asthma and COPD: COVID-19 Myth Busting with Dr. Juanita Mora — American Lung Association
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.