Many people develop asthma after contracting Covid-19

After contracting Covid-19, many people develop asthma with symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, and chest tightness, even though they have never had this disease before.

In the past few months, the weather has changed, sometimes it is hot and cold, Mr. Hung (33 years old, Hanoi) coughs a lot, often feels short of breath, heavy in the chest at night, so he goes to Tam Anh Hanoi General Hospital for examination. The doctor measured his respiratory function, took a chest X-ray, and determined that he had asthma. Previously, he was infected with Covid-19 in April 2022, then had a persistent cough despite recovering from the disease for many weeks. Thinking that after Covid-19, he bought himself cough medicine to drink, but when he ran out of medicine, he relapsed.

"I don't understand why I suddenly got asthma when I had never had symptoms of asthma before Covid-19 and no one in my family had this disease," Hung said.

Another case is Ngoc (40 years old, Ha Nam) who had a severe case of Covid-19 and had to be hospitalized for treatment. Up to now, she has been cured of the disease for more than 5 months but still has a cough and difficulty breathing. She was diagnosed with asthma at Tam Anh General Hospital in Hanoi.

Master, Doctor Dang Thanh Do, Department of Respiratory, Tam Anh General Hospital in Hanoi, said that these are two of the cases of asthma onset after Covid-19 have been recorded recently. The patient came to the clinic initially because he thought he had post-Covid-19 with symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, and prolonged chest tightness. However, after examining and doing respiratory testing methods, the doctor discovered that the patient had asthma. Many cases have never had symptoms of asthma before, no relatives have the disease.

Asthma after infection with Covid-19 has also been reported in some countries around the world. Research in Iran shows that the rate of children with asthma-like symptoms after being infected with Covid-19 is 41.5%. The report also found that asthma is more likely to trigger in people with severe Covid-19, especially those experiencing a cytokine storm; people with allergies, have had allergic rhinitis or a family member with asthma.

Doctor Dang Thanh Do advises post-Covid-19 patients. Photo: Tam Anh General Hospital

At present, the mechanism causing the onset of asthma after Covid-19 infection has not been elucidated because the studies need more follow-up time. However, there are many theories put forward by scientists around this issue.

The first hypothesis is that when infected with nCoV, the immune system kicks off an inflammatory response to suppress the pathogen, causing the airways to narrow, swell, and produce mucus. Over time, mucus builds up leading to the onset of symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest pain... After recovering from Covid-19, virus fragments are still present and disrupting the body in some way. even without the ability to infect cells.

Another theory is that the immune system becomes less active and takes longer to recover from Covid-19. Therefore, when the patient is exposed to common irritants such as dust, smoke, pollen, animal hair, during exertion, etc., it is easy to trigger potential asthma.

The next hypothesis explains the mechanism of asthma onset in people with severe Covid-19 infection due to a Cytokine storm. The sudden increase in blood cytokine levels leads to increased inflammation, causing severe lung damage, creating long-term effects on the respiratory system of patients after recovering from Covid-19. The inflammation of the airways, the bronchospasm characteristic of respiratory infections is the beginning of asthma symptoms.

Asthma symptoms can easily overlap with other common respiratory illnesses, so they are easy to miss. For an accurate diagnosis, the patient needs to be examined, perform respiratory function measurement, peak flow meter, chest X-ray. Patients can also self-assess their own asthma risk by consulting the GINA (Global Strategy for Asthma Management) screen by answering the questions below:

1. Do you have episodes of wheezing, wheezing or recurrent episodes of wheezing or wheezing?

2. Do you have an annoying cough at night?

3. Do you always wake up with a cough or shortness of breath?

4. Do you have a cough, wheezing or wheezing after being physically active (running, exercising)?

5. Do you have breathing problems during certain seasons of the year?

6. Have you had a cough, wheezing or chest tightness after exposure to respiratory allergens (house dust, mold...) or irritants (paints, oils, perfumes...)?

7. Have you ever had a cold that led to pneumonia or took more than 10 days to heal?

8. Do symptoms improve with asthma medications?

If there are 2 or more "yes" answers, it is necessary to see a doctor for timely diagnosis and treatment.

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