Dr. Linda Rogers, a specialist in pulmonary medicine at the Mt. Sinai Health system, which is on the front line of Covid treatment, said one would assume that patients with underlying lung diseases would be “at risk of worse outcomes.” But she said that “asthma is underrepresented” in patients that are sick enough to seek treatment.
Her practice focuses on people with more serious cases of asthma, but she has been able to successfully manage many of her asthma patients through telemedicine. “These are patients who, just based on their asthma alone, are on steroids all the time. I’m just surprised some of them haven’t done worse.”
Still, the data analysis on the effects of asthma is in its infancy, and health experts cited an existing body of research that shows the flu and milder coronaviruses exacerbate asthma as worrisome indicators for those with Covid-19. Dr. Rogers said that she did not want to exclude asthma “as a potential problem as it is well known that viral infections are the No. 1 cause of asthma flares in both children and adults under normal conditions.”
Dr. J. Allen Meadows, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, said much the same: “Since common coronaviruses in the United States, and influenza, trigger asthma flares in well controlled patients, we might expect Covid-19 to be similar.”
One doctor who has studied viruses extensively is Young J. Juhn, a clinical epidemiologist, and professor of pediatrics and medicine at the Mayo Clinic, whose laboratory research has examined the impact of asthma on the risk of infectious and inflammatory diseases.
Dr. Juhn said the data would have to be studied and weighted in more detail, but added that, in his view, asthma put people at greater risk of poor outcomes, and potentially even more susceptible to infection, though there was limited data on the latter point. He noted that asthma disproportionately affects lower-income people who have less access to Covid testing and care.
“It may be still fair to say that the emerging data support the current guidelines considering asthma as a high-risk condition,” he cautioned, adding that “we need more definite data.”