It makes sense that the respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 could present a serious menace to those who suffer from asthma — which inflames and narrows airways, making breathing difficult. And since the early days of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that people with moderate to severe asthma may be at higher than average risk for severe illness from the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
But several months into the pandemic, medical experts say that the numbers tell a somewhat different story. “Asthma really hasn't shaken out to be a significant risk factor,” says Benjamin J. Seides, M.D., director of interventional pulmonology at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.
"There's scant published data to support an increased risk” of either getting the coronavirus or having a severe reaction to it, agrees Mitchell H. Grayson, M.D., director of allergy and immunology and professor of pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Ohio State University.
Only one report from the CDC, based on a sample of just 44 subjects, showed a high rate of increased risk of COVID-19 for those with asthma, and that report involved a group of study subjects with a higher prevalence of asthma than is typically seen in the broader population, says Grayson, who called the study “a little weak from a data perspective.” Overall, he says, the numbers suggest that “people with asthma are not getting infected with the coronavirus more frequently than those without.”