Asthma is a respiratory condition caused by inflammation of the airways (bronchioles) that carry air to and from the lungs. The lining of the airways becomes inflamed and swollen, making it difficult to breathe, according to WebMD.
In 2014 the main causes of death in South Africa were tuberculosis (8,8%), influenza and pneumonia (5,2%), diseases that affect the lungs, according to Statistics South Africa.
People with asthma aren’t more likely to get coronavirus than anyone else. But like any respiratory virus, Covid-19 might make asthma worse, putting sufferers at increased risk of asthma symptoms and even potentially life-threatening asthma attacks.
With asthma the sufferers’ bronchioles become swollen due to a reaction caused by an allergen or possibly an infection, according to a Pretoria-based GP who wishes to remain anonymous.
So should a person with asthma contract an infection that causes their bronchioles to become inflamed, it could lead to an asthma attack, which is why people with asthma are at a higher risk should they contract Covid-19.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists asthma, along with diabetes and heart disease, as conditions that make someone “more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus,” according to TIME magazine.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America also lists asthma as a chronic medical condition that increases sufferers’ risk of catching the virus, noting that asthmatics should “take precautions when any type of respiratory illness is spreading in their community”.
But experts told TIME magazine there’s little definitive evidence whether asthma increases the likelihood of catching the virus or of experiencing more severe illness.
However, while studies haven’t yet shown a link between asthma and more severe cases of Covid-19, people with asthma are at risk of more severe illnesses with respiratory viruses in general.