While the coronavirus pandemic rages worldwide, those of us with asthma or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) face even greater COVID-19 challenges. However, we’re not alone: we can help one another.
When you cope daily with the symptoms of COPD or asthma or care for someone who does, you already exhibit a great deal of resilience and courage. You can draw on that deep reservoir of strength now to help yourself and others. What follows are some tips to avoid being infected and to help us emerge stronger.
How COVID-19 Affects You
Let’s concentrate on the respiratory COVID-19 challenges that our COPD and asthma community faces. The coronavirus exploits weaknesses in the body’s immune system and most often develops in the respiratory tract.
When the coronavirus travels from the upper respiratory region to the lungs, it attacks both the air sacs and small blood vessels in the lungs. As the body’s immune system fights back to repair the damage, debris begins to collect in the air sacs and the blood vessel walls become thicker. As this process continues, it becomes more difficult to breathe. (The Cleveland Clinic provides a simple description.)
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that persons “with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma” are at higher risk. However, we can do some things to prevent infection.
How to Prevent Coronavirus Infection
Here are some lifestyle tips to reduce your chance of exposure while continuing to practice social distancing:
- Go virtual: Use FREE apps such as Zoom, Lifesize, FaceTime, and Facebook Messenger, among others, to connect with friends, loved ones, and colleagues.
- Use delivery services: Have your groceries delivered by Peapod, Instacart, or Thrive Market. CVS offers free delivery of prescription medications, and there are even digital pharmacies like Capsule in many major markets.
- Disinfect the unexpected: Create a “dirty” and “clean” zone to disinfect incoming groceries and packages (watch VanWingen demonstrate).
- Wash your hands: Use soap and water, or if soap is unavailable, use a high alcohol-content commercial hand sanitizer. Especially avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Contain the threat: Isolate anyone in your household who becomes infected. Prepare a safe space ahead of time with needed supplies.
- Utilize your community: Contact your local Departments of Health or Social Services to ask for additional advice and resources.
- Continue your treatment plan: Consult your health care provider before making any changes. Unless otherwise instructed, you should plan to continue following your personalized action plan.
In addition, you or someone you know might experience greater stress. Consequently, this lowers your resistance to disease. So try to reduce your level of stress: stay in touch with family and friends (online or by phone), meditate or do yoga, listen to music, read for pleasure, go outside for walks when it’s safe, get some exercise, avoid binging on news about the pandemic, and eat healthy.
What to Do if Symptoms Emerge
Don’t panic. If you think you may have come in contact with the coronavirus, consider using this COVID-19 screening tool: https://flyp.clearstep.health. The purpose of this screener is to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care. This system is not intended for the diagnosis or treatment of disease or other conditions, including COVID-19.
Regardless, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 infection include fever (100.4°F or higher) and cough. If you have these symptoms or you experience trouble breathing, you should call your health care provider or the nearest emergency room.
Do not go to your doctor’s office or emergency room until instructed to do so.
If you have a medical emergency, call 911 and tell the operator that you might have COVID-19. Whenever possible, put on a mask before help arrives.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a confusing time for us all. A lot of dangerous misinformation has been widely shared on the Internet and public media. The following links provide trustworthy advice and support.
Remember, we will win this battle with courage, support from family and friends, health care providers, and our community.