Everyone agrees about the good news — folks whose asthma is spurred on by allergies don’t appear to have an increased risk of life-threatening illness if they contract COVID-19.
“Asthma has not risen as one of the top comorbid diseases for worse COVID-19 outcomes,” said Dr. Sandhya Khurana, director of the Mary Parkes Center for Asthma, Allergy and Pulmonary Care at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center. “We always worry with asthma and viral infections, because they seem to trigger asthma exacerbation unreasonably. But what we’ve seen so far is reassuring.”
But debate continues to swirl regarding the potential severity of COVID infection in people with non-allergic asthma.
Some studies have suggested that people who have asthma caused by something other than allergies — exercise, stress, air pollution, weather conditions — might have an increased risk of severe COVID-19.
For example, Harvard researchers found that having non-allergic asthma increased the risk of severe COVID-19 by as much as 48%. That conclusion was based on data from 65,000 asthma sufferers presented in the June issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
“For those people, I think being more cautious would be good for them,” said senior researcher Liming Liang, an associate professor of statistical genetics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “I think the next wave is coming. We’ve got to be more cautious.”
But other experts note that the data involving COVID and non-allergic asthma sufferers is very limited, and any conclusions that these folks are at higher risk of severe infection could be flawed.
Their asthma could be caused by other lung ailments that are associated with more serious cases of COVID, for instance, said Dr. Mitchell Grayson, chief of allergy and immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
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