During Pandemic, Some With Asthma Have Never Felt Better

Asthma attacks and emergency-room visits for asthma fell sharply during the pandemic 

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At the beginning of the pandemic, doctors and asthma patients worried that asthma could lead to more severe coronavirus infections. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, however, that didn't happen. 

What did happen was actually positive. 

“We've noticed a significant decrease in asthma hospitalizations and emergency room visits," said Dr. Noah Friedman, chief of allergy and immunology at Kaiser Permanente San Diego said,

Asthma leads to 3,500 deaths and 1.6 million emergency-room visits a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kaiser San Diego's chief of emergency medicine estimates, though, that there has been a decline of at least 30% in asthma-related emergency-room visits during the COVID-19 outbreak. And this is being seen nationwide. 

According to a Brigham and Women’s Hospital study,aAsthma attacks among Black and Latino patients dropped more than 40% during the pandemic.

Respiratory viruses like colds and the flu are known triggers of asthma attacks.

"For a person without asthma, a cold is a relatively benign illness," Friedman said. “For someone with severe asthma, it can lead to severe asthma flares and hospitalizations.” 

Friedman said, thanks to social distancing and mask wearing, his patients were less susceptible to getting a cold.

“I think the silver lining of the pandemic has been the fact that people have been indoors, socially distanced and taking a lot of care to not get sick,” Friednman noted.

Other factors likely contributed to the decline in severe asthma attacks. Friedman said that staying home might have made it easier for people to keep up with their regular asthma medication. Also, they were not exposed to potential triggers or allergens at work or school. 

Still, Friedman is cautious.

“It’s certainly great news," Friedman said. "But now that we are heading into normal life to a certain degree and unmasking and taking less care than we have, we may very well fall back into old patterns.”

Friedman is advising his patients to get the COVID vaccine if possible, to continue wearing masks if unvaccinated and to get their flu shot. 

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