Many have heard that those with certain underlying conditions are more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19. This has led to the assumption that people with asthma, a serious respiratory illness, are included among this demographic. However, medical studies show that patients with asthma did NOT have to be hospitalized more than people without asthma. The following study compared the prevalence of asthma with the risks of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in asthma patients. It also reviewed the link between corticosteroid inhalations and increased risks of hospitalizations.
The COVID-19 and Asthma Study
This retrospective study was conducted across 10 hospitals affiliated with Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. Approximately 1,500 COVID-19 patients participated, and 14.4% had asthma. The symptoms of asthma, such as coughing and difficulty breathing, were similar to those of COVID-19. Some patients have had trouble discerning between asthma and COVID-19 symptoms.
The study included the use of two models. The first model considered the patient’s age, gender and ethnicity, and the second model considered the risk factors of obesity and smoking. The results showed that researchers found no major differences in the rates of hospitalizations between people with asthma and those without the condition.
Asthma and Underlying Conditions
In addition, COVID-19 patients with asthma had higher rates of obesity, COPD, hypertension, sleep apnea and gastroesophageal reflux disease than COVID-19 patients without asthma. Even so, these comorbidities did not result in increased rates of hospitalizations in asthmatics. These same asthma patients had higher rates of rhinitis, rhinosinusitis, and immune system deficiencies; yet, they showed no increased risks of hospitalizations.
The Addition of Corticosteroids
The study reviewed which COVID-19 patients with asthma were taking inhaled forms of corticosteroids, long-acting beta-agonists or systemic corticosteroids. Slightly less than half of the patients were taking these medications. They were not shown to have increased risks of hospitalizations than those who were not taking them. Patients with COVID-19 and asthma did not have increased rates of mortality either. Laboratory tests actually showed reductions in biomarkers that identified the severity of COVID-19. Researchers have concluded that additional studies are needed to explain the lowered numbers.
Conclusion of the Study
Several doctors in the study concluded that people with asthma might have added protection against the virus. This demographic is expected to have the worst outcomes for patients who have to fight off a respiratory illness like COVID-19. Both conditions affect the lungs, cause difficulty in breathing and require the use of ventilators. However, the results are contrary to the predictions of medical professionals. Some studies have actually shown reduced hospitalization rates in people with asthma who develop COVID-19. Doctors may be able to assume that asthma or asthma treatments are possibly protective against the virus. Until more research is performed, people with asthma should rely on the effective treatments available at Bernstein Allergy Clinic.
Reference: Chhiba KD et al. Prevalence and characterization of asthma in hospitalized and nonhospitalized patients with COVID-19. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2020 Aug;146(2):307-314.