Coronavirus and COPD: What You Should Know

It is important those living with COPD and their caregivers are well-informed about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and take proper steps to minimize the risk of infection. Since developments are fast-breaking, continue to follow trusted news sources or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illness in people. Human coronaviruses are not new — they are common throughout the world and typically cause mild to moderate illnesses. The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a new respiratory virus first identified in December 2019 as the cause of an outbreak in China. COVID-19 is likely more highly contagious than other highly contagious coronavirus strains such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

People with underlying health conditions, including COPD, are at no greater risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 than others; however, they are more likely to experience serious complications if they become infected.

Transmission of Virus

Human coronaviruses are most commonly spread from close contact with an infected person to others through:

• the air, if someone coughs or sneezes;
• close personal contact, like touching or shaking hands; and
• touching an object or surface that has been exposed to the virus, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands;

The current coronavirus, COVID-19, appears to occur mainly through respiratory transmission.

Symptoms

Most people who get sick with COVID-19 will develop mild to moderate respiratory symptoms. However, people who are more susceptible to infection may develop more severe disease. The most common symptoms include fever, tiredness, dry cough, and difficulty breathing. Some patients may also have aches and pains, runny nose, nasal congestions, sore throat or diarrhea.

Illness can begin 2 to 14 days after an exposure. If these symptoms sound like symptoms of influenza, you are correct. But the consequences of COVID-19 are potentially more serious, which is why if you experience these symptoms you are encouraged to seek medical attention. Most people infected with the virus – about 80% – recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

Important Steps for People Living with COPD as Coronavirus Spreads

1. Maintain at least a 30-day supply of your prescribed medications. Check with your insurance provider for refill terms.

2. Stock up on every day supplies in your home. If possible, ask someone to bring items to your home so you do not have to travel outside.

3. Check with your oxygen supplier to see how it will deal with COVID-19. It’s important to ensure that your routine oxygen needs will be met.

4. Establish a COVID-19 hygiene routine for people entering home (i.e using hand sanitizer, handwashing, etc.), but try to avoid contact with others as much as possible especially if  COVID-19 outbreak is identified in your community.

5. If home health nurses or aides assist you with household tasks, ask what steps they are taking to ensure prevention practices are in place.

6. Stay inside unless absolutely necessary, like to visit your health care provider. If you must go out, keep a 6 foot distance from others and wash your hands often.

Everyday Steps Those Living with COPD Can Take to Further Protect Against Coronavirus

1. Wash your hands often during the day with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer to be sure you’ve washed your hands for 20 seconds? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. Keep a bottle or two of hand sanitizer nearby.

2. Routinely clean surfaces in your home (wipes work great) and avoid directly touching surfaces that may contain germs. This includes your telephone, the TV remote control, gym equipment, and the steering wheel of your car.

3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. This is good advice all year round. Once contaminated, your hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth.

4. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Cough into your elbow instead of your hands.

5. Stay in your home and avoid close contact with others who are sick.

6. If you have not yet quit smoking, please do so now and give your respiratory system a break. If you contract COVID-19 you will need your respiratory system to be as strong as possible.

Additional Resources

 

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