People who suffer from asthma may be concerned about their unique risk of contracting  COVID-19. And now that allergy season is in full swing, distinguishing between symptoms can be extra confusing.

Dr. Adam Williams, Summit Health’s Allergy and Asthma informs on all three respiratory conditions and advises on how asthma and allergy sufferers can differentiate symptoms to stay safe and healthy this season.

What Causes Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease marked by inflammation in the airways of the lungs, or bronchial tubes, which results in swelling, mucus production, and bronchospasm, which in turn can lead to shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, wheezing, and coughing. While many people develop asthma in childhood, others are diagnosed in adulthood.

“Be sure to discuss your symptoms with your asthma specialist, as the medications to treat asthma depend on the frequency and severity of your symptoms,” notes Dr. Williams. Symptoms associated with the most common types of asthma are usually induced by physical activity and respiratory infections, but also allergies. He adds that identifying your triggers can help determine what your treatment regimen should be and if you need medications year-round or seasonally.

Asthma and Allergies

Allergic and non-allergic asthma share symptoms, from difficulty breathing and chest tightness to coughing and wheezing. “In central Oregon, pollen allergies can make asthma worse during the entire warmer half of the year,” says Dr. Williams. “Asthma triggered by animal dander allergy can be a problem year-round, especially in colder months when people spend more time indoors.”

Non-allergic triggers for asthma can be at least as common as allergic triggers and can include respiratory infections, exercise, cold air, smoke from fires, and chemical fumes.

“People should expect to be able to maintain very good control of their asthma regardless of the triggers with appropriate treatment,” Dr. Williams advises. “So be sure to chat with your doctor if you feel your asthma is not as doing as well as it could be.”

COVID-19 and Asthma

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that asthmatic people are at a higher risk of advanced complications upon contracting COVID-19 if their asthma is moderate to severe or uncontrolled. But rest assured that you aren’t more likely to contract the virus if you have asthma. “Because we know that COVID-19 can impact the lungs, it’s paramount for those with moderate to severe asthma to be consistent with their medication regimens and take appropriate precautions,” recommends Dr. Williams. After consulting with your doctor about your health, here are some additional tips you can incorporate into your management plan:

  • Regularly wash your hands and wear a mask over your nose and mouth to lower your chance of exposure to the virus as well as allergens and continue to socially distance.
  • Keep a two-week to a 30-day supply of your asthma medication on hand in case you do contract COVID-19 and can’t visit the hospital.
  • Follow up with your allergist regularly (virtual visits count, too!) to ensure that your medications are still working for you and promoting good health.
  • Get vaccinated if eligible. As of April 19, all Oregonians 16 years of age and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.