JUL 19, 2021 8:23 PM PDT

The Pandemic and Fewer Asthma Attacks?

WRITTEN BY: Alexandria Bass

Asthma sufferers: Quarantine during the pandemic may have not only helped you avoid COVID but more asthma attacks as well. A new article in The Atlantic revealed that asthma attacks plummeted during the pandemic.

While doctors across the US expected the worst from their asthma patients during COVID-19 outbreaks, they were pleasantly surprised. Drops in hospitalizations and doctor's visits for asthma from their usual numbers were reported across multiple countries in Europe and Asia as well. 

So what's to blame for this noted decrease? Scientists suspect asthma sufferers fared better than usual because of quarantine and less exposure to the more common cold and flu viruses that trigger asthma attacks. This is pivotal because it shifts importance from the more controllable common household allergens as likely culprits of asthma attacks to respiratory viruses.

Investigators had to check that reported drops in asthma attacks and hospitalizations weren't from people just avoiding medical treatment during the pandemic to avoid potential exposure to COVID. Elliot Israel, a pulmonologist in Boston, had already started studying minority patients' asthma attacks through at-home questionnaires well-before and throughout the pandemic. Data confirmed that asthma attacks had decreased during the pandemic –as drastically as by 40%. Interestingly, Israel's study found no clear correlation between this drop in attacks and changes in air pollution exposure.

Besides less exposure to respiratory viruses, other potential factors that could have contributed to fewer asthma attacks during the pandemic not ruled out by the study were better patient adherence to long-term asthma medication while staying at home for longer bouts and less exposure to chemicals outside of the home.

As masks become less common and COVID less rampant, cold viruses are starting to resurge. Only time will tell how asthma sufferers will now be affected.

About the Author
  • Alexandria (Alex) is a freelance science writer with a passion for educating the public on health issues. Her other professional experience includes working as a speech-language pathologist in health care, a research assistant in a food science laboratory, and an English teaching assistant in Spain. In her spare time, Alex enjoys cycling, lap swimming, jogging, and reading.
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