Coronavirus and COPD: What You Should Know

If you live with COPD, you already think a lot about your breathing and your lung health. COVID-19, the respiratory illness that the new coronavirus causes, probably has raised many questions for you.

Doctors are learning more about the pandemic every day. Here’s what we know so far about COVID-19 and what it might mean for your health.

Understand Your Risks

About 80% of people recover fully from COVID-19 without medical treatment. But your COPD puts you at higher risk to get seriously sick if you were to get infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Severe COVID-19 could lead to:

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which fills your lungs with fluids so you can’t breathe in enough oxygen
  • Heart damage
  • Shock, which disrupts your circulatory system and prevents blood from reaching organs. It can be deadly.

Doctors can’t say yet exactly how much risk your COPD can add. They do know that COVID-19 is likely to make you sicker than it does people who don’t have the condition.

Other things that raise your chances for serious illness with COVID-19 include if you:

Your COPD may pose extra harm because your damaged airways may have a harder time fighting off the coronavirus.

COVID-19 Symptoms

Understand the signs of COVID-19 so you can get medical help if you need it. The three key things to look for are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. You already may have coughing and shortness of breath because of your COPD.

COPD typically doesn’t give you a fever. If you run a temperature, about 100.4 F or above, along with other COVID-19 symptoms, call your doctor.

How to Protect Yourself

If COVID-19 is spreading in your area, stay home as much as possible except for urgent medical appointments. You may have a COPD action plan that says you will start antibiotics or steroids when your symptoms flare. Ask whether you need to make any adjustments, especially if you live where SARS-CoV-2 is widespread.

Like everyone, be sure to wash your hands often, and keep 6 feet away from other people. It also may be a good idea if you have COPD to:

  • Have food, household supplies, and medications you need for a while. Ask for an early refill or a 90-day supply of your prescriptions if possible.
  • Confirm your oxygen company has a plan to continue on-time deliveries.
  • Make sure you have a working oximeter and thermometer.
  • Stick to your COPD treatment plan and keep the condition under control.
  • Stay healthy, including getting lots of sleep, exercising, and eating right.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on March 27, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

J. Randall Curtis, MD, MPH, the A. Bruce Montgomery - American Lung Association Endowed Chair in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): “People who are at higher risk,” “Steps to prevent getting sick.”

WHO: “Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

COPD Foundation: “COVID-19 Webinar Slides,” “COVID-19 Webinar Q&A.”

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