People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) need to continue to use maintenance medications as prescribed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and do all they can to avoid infection, the American Lung Association said in an update.
This virus poses a considerably greater risk of serious complications to these patients and others with lung disorders like asthma.
COVID-19 infects the respiratory system, and its symptoms can include bronchitis and pneumonia, the association noted in a press release. In more severe cases, infection can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and a need for ventilation to support breathing.
This “is an infectious respiratory disease that can cause a pneumonia-like lung infection, with a range of symptoms from mild or absent for some to life-threatening for others,” Albert Rizzo, MD, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association (ALA), said in the release.
“Everyone’s health is at risk from COVID-19, and those living with a lung disease or who are immunocompromised may be more vulnerable to the impacts of the virus,” Rizzo added.
In addition to continuing with maintenance medications — and planning ahead to make prescription refill requests well before you run out — the association stresses that people with lung disease strictly adhere to social distancing, thorough hand washing, and avoiding contact with individuals with COVID-19 symptoms — including a dry cough and fever. With everyone else, they should also avoid touching their face, eyes, mouth, and nose.
These steps will not only protect individuals, but will help limit the spread of the virus overall.
“Changes in behavior, such as social distancing and practicing public health guidance, will be key to all of us staying healthy and out of the hospital,” Rizzo said.
One major concern of the COVID-19 pandemic, in some places, is that hospital supplies are becoming increasingly limited as the virus continues to spread.
“The healthcare system and hospitals are already stressed with admissions as a result of the pandemic. It’s important for those with lung disease to use their best practices in managing their disease, including for example COPD, which is already a high-risk disease for readmissions to the hospital,” he added.
He also advises people to reduce their risk by quitting smoking and vaping, as these activities can promote inflammation and reduce immune system activity.
“Cigarette smoking and vaping are linked to lung inflammation and lowered immune function in the lung’s airways, both of which can increase likelihood of complications if exposed to COVID-19,” Rizzo said. “Therefore, long-terms smokers and e-cigarette users may have a higher risk of developing chronic lung conditions associated with severe cases.”
Individuals who need help with stopping tobacco or e-cigarette use can find information on the ALA website.
The association also has dedicated webpage providing the latest COVID-19 information, and runs a Lung Helpline (1-800-LUNGUSA; 1-800-586-4872).
It reports that nearly 37 million U.S. residents have a chronic lung disease like COPD and asthma.
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