COVID-19 Information Center

 

Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

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    For People with Asthma, Allergies and Related Diseases

    We’re here for you! 

    We know COVID-19 is a serious concern for you if you have asthma, allergies or related diseases. Right now, experts are learning more about the coronavirus every week. We want to make sure you have the most current, accurate and trustworthy information to manage your health. 

    Frequently Asked COVID-19 Questions

    Are people with asthma at greater risk for catching COVID-19?

    People with asthma are not believed to be at higher risk of getting infected with COVID-19 — but if you do get infected you may be at higher risk of getting very sick.

    COVID-19 can:

    • affect your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs)
    • cause an asthma attack
    • possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.
    What are recommendations for people with asthma?

    More than 24 million people in the United States have asthma and 10 people die from asthma in the United States daily. It is important to practice COVID-19 prevention strategies if you have asthma due to the increased risk of severe complications.

    If you have asthma, be sure to continue to follow your Asthma Action Plan or treatment plan.

    Additional things you can do:

    • Know how to use your inhaler correctly.
    • Avoid your asthma triggers.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks daily to protect yourself against COVID-19.
    • Avoid disinfectants and scented hand sanitizers that may cause an asthma attack.
    • Take your asthma medication exactly as prescribed.
    • Talk to your healthcare provider, insurer and/or pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of prescription medications such as asthma inhalers. There is no need to hoard medications.
    • Make sure that you have 30 days of nonprescription medications and supplies on hand in case you need to stay home for a long time.
    Who is at the greatest risk for severe COVID-19 complications?

    Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. These groups include:

    • Older adults, with risk increasing by age.
    • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
    • Pregnant women.
    • People of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19:
      • Chronic kidney disease
      • COPD
      • Weakened immune system from solid organ transplant
      • Obesity (body mass index of 30 or higher)
      • Heart conditions including coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies
      • Sickle cell disease
      • Type 2 diabetes

       

      People with the following conditions might be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19:

      • Asthma (moderate to severe)
      • Pulmonary fibrosis (damaged or scarred lung tissue)
      • Weakened immune system from immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids or other immune weakening medications and blood or bone marrow transplant
      • Smoking
      • Cystic fibrosis
      • Hypertension or high blood pressure
      • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to brain)
      • Neurologic conditions such as dementia
      • Liver disease
      • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
      • Type 1 diabetes

      Research is ongoing involving whether asthma is a risk factor for more severe complications from COVID-19. While CDC says it MAY be a risk for more severe COVID-19, other studies suggest it is NOT a risk factor.

      Several studies indicate people who have nonallergic asthma – symptoms caused by something other than allergies, such as exercise, air pollution, weather conditions or stress – may be at increased risk for severe COVID-19 compared to those with allergic asthma.

    Should I wear a face mask?

    CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (grocery stores and pharmacies, for example), especially in areas of significant community spread.

    The cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials. They are recommended to help slow the spread of the virus and keep people who may have the virus but not know it from transmitting it to others.

    The recommended cloth face coverings are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Medical face masks are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.

    There is no evidence that wearing a face mask can worsen your asthma, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. However, some people with moderate or severe asthma may feel it is more difficult to breathe while wearing a face mask. If you don’t feel you can wear a mask due to your asthma, it may be best for you to stay home or avoid public places as much as possible. Ask family and friends to run errands for you. If you must go out, avoid large crowds and practice social distancing. Being in public without a face mask may increase your chances of getting COVID-19 or passing it on to others.

    CDC recommends against using valved masks or vented N95 masks. These types of masks have openings through which air is exhaled. They are designed to filter out particles, but they may be counterproductive, causing the user to release respiratory droplets into the air. CDC says they do not prevent the person wearing the mask from transmitting COVID-19 to others.

    For the latest information on mask recommendations, please see Why Face Masks are Critical for People with Asthma During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

    How is COVID-19 transmitted?

    COVID-19 can be spread from person to person. Similar to other colds and viruses, it spreads primarily by close contact with someone who is infected. Research reveals that COVID-19 can be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

    Transmission can happen when respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks and the virus is released into the air. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Droplets generally don’t travel more than a few feet before they fall to the ground, but there are cases – especially indoors and in places with poor ventilation – where they may travel further or linger in the air.

    CDC defines “close contact” as spending a total of 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of someone who is infectious with COVID-19. The 15 minutes does not have to consecutive; it can occur in a series of brief encounters. It’s believed people need to be exposed to a certain level of the virus in order to get infected; the more exposure, the higher the level of the virus and the more likely people are to get COVID-19.

    The risk of COVID-19 transmission indoors is highly variable – it can depend on the size of the respiratory droplets and the airflow in the room. The risk of transmission outdoors is safer than indoors, but there are cases of transmission in crowded outdoor locations.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends social distancing, in which we stay at least 6 feet apart from other people, and that we wear face masks when around other people.

    COVID-19 can also be spread by touching a contaminated surface or object. (A cell phone or computer keyboard and mouse, for example, are items that can be contaminated with COVID-19.) The virus can be transmitted if you then touch your mouth, eyes or nose.

    Is COVID-19 airborne?

    COVID-19 most commonly spreads through close contact with an infected person, however according to CDC there is evidence that in certain conditions, it may spread via respiratory droplets to people further than 6 feet away from the person who is infected. The virus may also linger in the air after the infected person has left, potentially infecting those still in the space.

    This is called airborne transmission. CDC updated its COVID-19 guidance on Oct. 5 to reflect this assessment.

    Transmissions that infect people who are further than 6 feet away have occurred in indoor spaces that have poor ventilation. It could be the infected person was speaking loudly, singing or breathing heavy after exercise.

    To avoid exposure and minimize the risk of airborne transmission when indoors, CDC recommends staying at least 6 feet away from others whenever possible, avoid crowded indoor spaces and to cover your mouth and nose with a face mask when around others.

    Why is there so much concern about COVID-19?

    Cases of COVID-19 and instances of community spread are reported in all states. Community spread means some people have been infected and it is not known how or where they became exposed to the virus. People in places where there is ongoing community spread of COVID-19 are at higher risk of exposure, with the risk level dependent on your location, according to CDC.

    This is a health situation that continues to evolve. CDC also notes the following:

    • Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
    • Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
    • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with increase in risk dependent on location.

    In addition, certain people are at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19, according to CDC:

    • People 65 years and older
    • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
    • People of all ages with serious underlying medical conditions
    What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

    Symptoms vary in severity. Many cases are mild, but some are severe and life-threatening – usually in people who have some type of compromised immunity.

    Primary symptoms:

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Chills (sometimes with shaking)
    • Sore throat
    • Fatigue
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • A loss of taste or smell

    Some people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience small, itchy blisters or hives with flat and raised lesions. Others report purple skin marks, rashes or lesions on their toes (and sometimes fingers). Labeled “COVID toes,” sometimes they appear before COVID-19 symptoms begin; sometimes they appear with no other symptoms. Doctors believe they are related to the virus attacking blood vessels. Skin symptoms and COVID toes tend to go away within 10-14 days.

    What do I do if I’m feeling sick with COVID-19?

    If you suspect you may have COVID-19, please stay home and minimize contact with other people. You should call your doctor and discuss your symptoms and potential exposure. Your doctor will decide whether you need to be tested. You may also ask to be tested for COVID-19 by contacting a local health department.

    Most people who are mildly ill may need to just self-isolate at home until the virus runs its course.

    Other important measures if you are sick:

    • Wear a facemask when around other people if instructed to do so by your doctor.
    • Separate yourself as much as possible from other people in your home
    • Cover your cough and sneezes, or cough into your elbow
    • Wash your hands often
    • Don’t share objects
    When should I seek immediate medical attention?

    If you have any of these emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately:

    • Trouble breathing
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • Feeling confused or not able to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face
    • Inability to wake or stay awake

    Call 911 if you have a medical emergency. Notify the operator that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a cloth face covering before medical help arrives.

    What is the coronavirus or COVID-19?
    Coronaviruses are a group of respiratory viruses. There are many different kinds of this virus and many cause only minor cold-like symptoms while some cause more severe disease.

    COVID-19 is a specific coronavirus that emerged in late 2019. It can cause severe symptoms in some people. The COVID-19 virus has spread globally and is now a pandemic.

    What COVID-19 prevention strategies are recommended by CDC?

    The CDC is recommending that, if there is minimal or moderate spread of COVID-19 in your community, you should cancel events for groups of 10+ people or hold them virtually in order to slow the spread of the virus. If there is substantial spread of COVID-19 in the community, the event should be canceled.

    Preventive measures are the same as what’s recommended to avoid the flu or the common cold:

    • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    • Put distance between yourself and other people (at least 6 feet) if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
    • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not immediately available.
    • Avoid touching your mouth, eyes or nose.
    • Avoid sharing anything – including cups, water bottles and eating utensils.
    • Disinfect all frequently touched surfaces.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    How long does it take for symptoms to appear once infected with COVID-19?
    Symptoms tend to show in an infected person within 14 days following exposure to the virus. Most commonly, symptoms show within 5 days.
    Why is COVID-19 considered a pandemic?

    COVID-19 has spread worldwide and the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a pandemic. Pandemics occur when a new virus emerges to infect people and spread because there is little to no pre-existing immunity to it.

    Here is a map of reported COVID-19 cases, deaths and recoveries around the world.

    How do I manage stress due to COVID-19?

    As more cases of COVID-19 are discovered and our communities take action to combat the spread of disease, it is natural for some people to feel concerned or stressed. Strong emotions can trigger an asthma attack. Take steps to help yourself cope with stress and anxiety.

    Here’s advice on managing your mental health, stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    What do I do if I am unable to obtain an albuterol inhaler?

    In March 2020, certain areas of the United States experienced a shortage of albuterol quick-relief inhalers. This occurred due to supply chain issues and increased use of albuterol inhalers in hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients. Manufacturers have since resupplied pharmacies and, as of October 2020, the shortage has largely been resolved.

    If you are unable to fill your asthma inhaler prescription for any reason, there are options available. These include:

    • Contact your allergist or primary care doctor – other inhaler options are available.
    • Visit GoodRx.com to search for other pharmacies in your area that may be able to fill your prescription.
    • If you can’t afford your asthma medication, refer to this list of patient assistance programs and discount cards to help with the cost.
    • Follow your Asthma Action Plan and avoid your asthma triggers to prevent flare-ups that require quick-relief medication.
    • Remember to not overuse your albuterol inhaler. One canister should last for months. If you’re using your albuterol inhaler more than twice a week to relieve symptoms, that’s a sign your asthma may not be well controlled, and you should schedule an appointment to see an allergist.
    Is there a COVID-19 treatment available?

    COVID-19 treatments are only available for hospitalized patients at this time.

    In October 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved remdesivir for use in hospitalized adults and children 12 years of age or older who weigh at least 88 pounds.

    Remdesivir, a broad spectrum anti-viral medication, should only be administered in a hospital setting or a healthcare facility able to provide acute patient care. The medication was approved by FDA after analysis of data from three randomized, controlled clinical trials that included patients hospitalized with mild-to-severe COVID-19.

    Another COVID-19 treatment is dexamethasone, a type of corticosteroid. Its use is recommended by the National Institutes of Health’s COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel for hospitalized patients who are using ventilators to support breathing or require supplemental oxygen.

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