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Wear The Gown: Asthma and the coronavirus

Since the coronavirus attacks the lungs, how would that affect those with asthma? We get answers.

SAN ANTONIO — Coronavirus attacks the lungs and makes it much harder to breathe. In the latest edition of Wear The Gown, we tackle the issue of asthma and how it could make catching the coronavirus much more deadly.

To answer your questions, we went to Dr. Mandie Svatek, an associate professor of pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio, as well as a pediatric hospitalist with University Health System.

Even though kids are less likely to get the virus are kids with asthma more prone to catch it?

Svatek: Kids with asthma are not more prone to catch COVID. It's only the population that we know that has chronic lung disease that may be affected more by COVID. Those that have asthma, COPD or any other lung disease, if they were to contract COVID they may be more symptomatic with symptoms. So there can be an associated increased mortality rate with that but they are still looking at the data.

Will using my inhaler now help strengthen my lungs?

Svatek: Usually with your asthma action plan a lot of children have what we call a controller inhaler, and that has a steroid in it, and if they are following that plan and they are using that steroid in the inhaler that's going to protect their lungs should they get COVID. 

It’s important you follow the asthma action plan; that if you have those controller medications, that you use those first and then if you are beginning to have any sort of shortness of breath or cough any of those symptoms associated with asthma, that you use your escape inhaler otherwise known as Albuterol to help.

I've had an asthma cough with all the allergies and I've been using my rescue inhaler. If I get coronavirus could this become exacerbated?

Svatek: What we are seeing because of the social distancing measures and the stay at home measures, is that people are staying in the environment 100% of the time that they are living in. If you have something within your environment, whether it be outdoors or indoors that is more prone to affect you, then it can tip you over the edge to have increased symptoms associated with your asthma. 

It’s very important to be cognizant of your environment so if there are smokers in your environment, whether they smoke outside or inside, that outside secondhand smoke can be brought inside and can worse than your asthma symptoms. We are in allergy season right now so we have to think about the pollens the molds and all the other things that are in the air that are affecting that person. 

You need to be in contact with your allergist or your primary care physician to ensure there are not other medications that you can be taking whether it be shots or something by mouth to also assist so that you don’t develop breathing problems associated with your asthma. 

If you did get COVID then we know that you have that potential for worsening your symptoms, and so you have to be aware that you need to protect yourself by protecting yourself, meaning you either need to contact your physician to see what sort of maintenance you can do and then follow your asthma action plan.

As somebody with asthma in the past should I be doing anything different now than others to protect my lungs from the virus?

Svatek: We need to make sure we are following our asthma action plans, we are aware of our symptoms and one of the major symptoms we need to be aware of is cough. Any asthma patient should be following their plan and they should be practicing the common practices that we are teaching everybody by socially isolating, separating yourselves from anybody that has that potential exposure. 

If you have a controller medication you use it if you are having constant symptoms it’s important that you contact your primary care physician and they can even do video teleconferencing to talk about your symptoms and whether or not you need additional medications. 

Wearing a mask a cloth mask is what the CDC recommends and not touching that mask with your hands, frequent handwashing, carrying hand sanitizer with you, doing all those types of measures just like the general population is what we are recommending at this point.

What can I do to protect my kids who have asthma now from Covid?

Svatek: To protect your children from COVID, even if they have asthma or they don’t, it is important to socially distance, to isolate yourselves from all other individuals. When people start thinking about having gatherings stay away from those follow the guidelines because if your child gets COVID their symptoms can be bad. 

We don’t know if that child is going to be less susceptible versus another child that is going to be more susceptible and so the symptoms can be bad and children have died from COVID.

For more information about family health, call 210-358-3045. You can also find the rest of our Wear The Gown stories here.

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