People with asthma are not necessarily at greater risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19, according to a new study. Photo by InspiredImages
During the pandemic, people with asthma have worried that their respiratory condition might raise their risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, but new research findings should calm their fears.
After analyzing data from 57 studies that included a total of over 587,000 people, scientists discovered that rates of asthma among people with COVID-19 were similar to rates in the general population, at just over seven in 100 people and just over eight in 100, respectively.
Compared to the general population, people with asthma were actually 14% less likely to get COVID-19 and much less likely to be hospitalized with the disease.
The risk of death from COVID-19 was the same for people with asthma and those without it, according to the researchers at the George Institute for Global Health, in New South Wales, Australia.
The study was published this month in the Journal of Asthma.
It's unclear why COVID-19 risks aren't higher in people with asthma, but one possible explanation is that asthma treatments may limit the coronavirus' ability to attach to the lungs, said study co-author Christine Jenkins, head of the institute's respiratory program.
"Chemical receptors in the lungs that the virus binds to are less active in people with a particular type of asthma and some studies suggest that inhaled corticosteroids -- commonly used to treat asthma -- can reduce their activity even further," she explained in an institute news release.
"Also, initial uncertainty about the impact of asthma on COVID-19 may have caused anxiety among patients and caregivers leading them to be more vigilant about preventing infection," Jenkins added.
The findings may provide some reassurance, but researchers and doctors need to learn more, according to study lead author Anthony Sunjaya.
"While we showed that people with asthma do not seem to have a higher risk of infection with COVID-19 compared to those without asthma, and have similar outcomes, we need further research to better understand how the virus affects those with asthma," he said.
Asthma Canada has more on COVID-19 and asthma.
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