April 20, 2020 - When the CDC named underlying medical conditions that might make a person vulnerable to the coronavirus, asthma made the list.

But early evidence appears to show asthma doesn’t raise the risk of getting the virus, though both conditions are lung disorders.

In New York state, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, state health officials posted a list of the major COVID-19 comorbidities, which means more than one disease or condition is present in a person at the same time. Hypertension and diabetes are the first two on the list. Asthma doesn’t crack the top 10.

“We’re not seeing a lot of patients with asthma,” Bushra Mina, MD, a pulmonary and critical care doctor at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told The New York Times. Mina said obesity, diabetes and chronic heart disease are more common risk factors for coronavirus patients.

Linda Rogers, MD, a pulmonary specialist at the Mount Sinai Health system, told the Times that asthma patients are “underrepresented” among people sick enough to need treatment.

It would seem logical asthma would make a person more vulnerable to the coronavirus, a commentary in well-known online medical journal says.

“One might anticipate that patients with chronic respiratory diseases, particularly chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, would be at increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and more severe presentations of COVID-19,” five European scientists say in Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal

“However, it is striking that both diseases appear to be under-represented in the comorbidities reported for patients with COVID-19” compared to the disease rates for the general population, they wrote.

About 8% of Americans have asthma, the CDC reports.

The CDC also issued a warning as the coronavirus struck, saying, “people with moderate to severe asthma may be at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. COVID-19 can affect your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs), cause an asthma attack, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.”

The New York Times noted that while asthma may not increase a person’s chances of getting COVID-19, it’s unclear if people who have asthma will fare worse if they do catch the virus.

It’s widely known that the flu and other kinds of coronaviruses can exacerbate asthma.

Rogers took a cautious approach, telling the Times that 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.”

Show Sources

Lancet, “Do chronic respiratory diseases or their treatment affect the

risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection?” April 3, 2020.

CDC.gov, “People Who Are at Higher Risk for Severe Illness.”
New York Department of Health, “Fatalities.”

NYTimes.com, “Asthma Is Absent Among Top Covid-19 Risk Factors, Early Data Shows.”

CDC.gov, “Most Recent National Asthma Data.”

CDC.gov, “People with Moderate to Severe Asthma.”

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