Health and Beyond Foundation

COVID 19 and Asthma

26th January 2023

What is Asthma ?                                                                                                                Lungs with solid fill

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs, making it harder to exhale. It is basically a condition in which one’s airways narrows and swells which might result in extra mucus being produced. This can make breathing difficult which in turn triggers coughing, whistling and wheezing leading to shortness of breath.

 According to The Global Asthma Report, asthma affects more than 339 million people around the world. The recent Global Burden of Disease (GBD, 1990–2019) estimated the total burden of asthma in India as 34.3 million, accounting for 13.09% of the global burden. It also attributed that 13.2 thousand deaths in India were due to asthma. Asthma accounted for 27.9% of the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in Indians.

COVID 19 and Asthma

Currently, in India in the post COVID-19 world there are 2 % of adult and 6% of child population suffering from asthma.

WHO had conducted a rapid systematic review for evaluating any link between COVID 19 and Asthma. The review set out to assess the available peer-reviewed literature regarding whether People With Asthma are at increased risk of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, and/or of experiencing complications or death. In particular, the review set out to analyse evidence on the following questions.

• Is asthma associated with increased risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 disease?

• Is asthma associated with hospitalization with COVID-19?

• Is asthma associated with the severity of COVID-19 outcomes ?

None of the included reviews were able to conclude with any certainty whether asthma was associated with increased risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2.

None clearly signalled an increased risk of ICU admission in people with asthma with COVID-19.

In the three studies included in their review with over 200 participants that evaluated death, one found no association, one found them to be underrepresented in deaths from COVID-19, and one found a higher risk of COVID-19 hospital death in people with asthma, with a greater risk in those with recent use of an oral corticosteroid.

Whether asthma increases risk of infection or severe outcomes from COVID-19 remains unclear. Systematic reviews do not detect a clear increase in risk.


Why asthma become severe in winters?   

Cold, dry air and sudden shift in the weather can bother your airways, causing it to produce more mucus. Staying indoor always doesn’t help either, as this can lead to an increase in respiratory illnesses like colds and flu. This all adds up to flaring up severe asthma. Other reasons for severity of asthma in winters are pollution, dust mites and damp & mould conditions.

Some useful suggestions for people with asthma-

  • Try to stay indoors when the temperature dips very low.
  • If you do have to go outside, cover your nose and mouth with a scarf to warm the air before you breathe it in.
  • Drink extra fluids. This can keep the mucus in your lungs thinner and therefore easier for your body to remove.
  • Try to avoid anyone who appears to be sick.
  • Vacuum and dust your home often to remove indoor allergens.
  • Wash your sheets and blankets every week in hot water to get rid of dust mites.

To prevent asthma attacks when you exercise outdoors in cold weather:

  • Use your inhaler 15 to 30 minutes before you exercise. This opens up your airways so you can breathe easier.
  • Carry an inhaler with you in case you have an asthma attack.
  • Warm up for at least 10 to 15 minutes before you work out.
  • Wear a mask or scarf over your face to warm the air you breathe in.