Can you get asthma after COVID-19?

Most current research suggests that having asthma does not mean you will have worse COVID-19 symptoms than someone without asthma.

Some of the hallmark symptoms of a coronavirus infection (COVID-19) are issues in the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs) and difficulty breathing. People with asthma do not necessarily have worse outcomes from COVID-19, but can you develop asthma after COVID-19? Can COVID-19 cause asthma?

Asthma and COVID-19

Asthma affects the airways of the lungs. At times, these airways can become inflamed or narrowed, which makes breathing difficult. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asthma affects about 1 in 13 Americans. Asthma can be triggered by allergens such as pollen, or by exercise or cold air. Asthma also can be triggered by colds and viruses.

Many think of asthma as a disease that develops in youth, but the truth is that anyone can develop asthma. Adults can develop asthma from infections like bronchitis or pneumonia, or from allergies and irritants like smoke or mold, but the cause is often unclear. Kentucky has the highest percentage of adults with asthma in the country, according to CDC data. Kentucky’s adult death rate from asthma is 10.2 per million, slightly higher than the national norm.

Most current research suggests that having asthma does not mean you will have worse COVID-19 symptoms than someone without asthma. Since the virus attacks the lungs, however, it can potentially lead to breathing issues even after the body clears the virus.

Getting asthma after COVID-19

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Research is ongoing about the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection.

“Symptoms of long COVID vary,” said Maroun M. Ghossein, M.D., pulmonologist with Norton Pulmonary Specialists. “Even if you didn’t have symptoms during your infection or your symptoms were mild, the virus still can affect you down the line.”

For patients who have COVID-19, inhaled oxygen tends to have a harder time entering the bloodstream. When the immune system comes in contact with a foreign substance like a virus, it can launch an inflammatory response. This causes airways to narrow, swell and produce excess mucus, and the muscles around them to tighten up. Mucus then builds up, resulting in the onset of associated symptoms — cough, chest pains, wheezing, etc.

“The theory is that after a person recovers from COVID-19, they still can have fragments of the virus in their system, disrupting the body in some way even if these can no longer infect the cells,” Dr. Ghossein said. “Another possibility is that within the first couple of weeks of the infection, the massive inflammation makes the immune system go haywire, and it take quite a long time to recover.”

That long recovery time is why patients may feel symptoms weeks or months after having COVID-19.

If you are experiencing symptoms of long COVID-19, see a health care provider.

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