Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)

Patients with Respiratory Diseases and COVID-19

By Dr. Khalil Diab, Clinical Associate Professor, Division of Pulmonary Diseases.

Is there a way to differentiate between the regular symptoms of an asthma exacerbation and those of COVID-19?

Typically, with COVID-19, people develop a high-grade fever, sore throat, muscle and joint pains. However, this is not universal and during this pandemic, for cases of worsening asthma, I recommend calling your doctor to determine whether you should be tested for COVID-19.

Are there special/ extra precautions for people with a history of respiratory disease?

People with a history of respiratory disease need to follow the same social distancing precautions recommended for everyone. COVID-19 may present in a more severe form in people with respiratory disease such as asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), and pulmonary fibrosis. People with COPD and asthma should continue to take all their prescribed inhalers to make sure their disease is kept under control. That will give them a better chance for a good outcome in case of a COVID-19 infection.

When should they be alarmed?

If there is increased shortness of breath requiring frequent use of rescue inhalers with no signs of improvement, then you should go to the emergency room to get assessed. Low oxygen saturations less than 94 percent on room air are associated with a significant risk of worsening COVID-19 infection.

Should they stop using steroid inhalers if they are infected with COVID-19?

The recommendations for now are not to stop steroid inhalers which are the mainstay of asthma treatment. Well-controlled asthma will probably protect you if you develop a COVID-19 infection.