COVID-19 and bronchitis: Risks and precautions

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COVID-19 is a novel illness that affects a person’s lungs and airways. People with bronchitis may be wondering what COVID-19 means for them.

Bronchitis refers to inflammation of the main airways of the lungs, or the bronchi. People with bronchitis may be at risk of serious illness if they develop COVID-19 after exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus. This is similar to what happens if they get the flu.

However, much remains unknown about the effects of COVID-19 on those with bronchitis. This is because it is a new disease around which there is limited information available.

Read on to learn more about the potential risks of COVID-19 for those with bronchitis, including precautions people can take to reduce their risk of developing it.

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As COVID-19 affects the respiratory tract, people with bronchitis should take extra care to avoid contracting the virus that causes it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with certain underlying health conditions may be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 — especially if they do not have these conditions under control. This includes people with chronic lung disease.

Chronic bronchitis, which is bronchitis that persists for several months or keeps coming back, is a form of chronic lung disease. Specifically, it is part of a serious lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Bronchitis does not cause COVID-19, and based on current information, it does not appear to increase a person’s risk of developing the disease. However, having chronic bronchitis may increase a person’s risk of developing severe illness if they do contract the virus.

Like bronchitis, COVID-19 affects the respiratory tract, including the lungs. It can therefore lead to pneumonia or acute respiratory disease.

The novel coronavirus may also cause acute, or short-term, bronchitis symptoms in people who contract the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) And other experts are still learning about how COVID-19 affects people with preexisting medical conditions.

Currently, there is little information about the effects of COVID-19 on people with bronchitis.

However, several other coronaviruses can cause symptoms that resemble those of colds and flus. Research indicates that the flu can frequently worsen cases of COPD. Cold symptoms may also make COPD symptoms worse.

Both bronchitis and COVID-19 can affect the lungs. This may mean that COVID-19 is more dangerous for those with bronchitis. The CDC also indicate that the novel coronavirus may cause more severe illness in those with preexisting lung conditions, such as bronchitis.

According to the WHOthe most common COVID-19 symptoms are:

Other symptoms may include:

  • aches and pains
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • nasal congestion
  • a runny nose
  • a sore throat

Some people may also experience a loss of taste or smell. However, neither the CDC nor the WHO have adopted this as an official symptom yet.

Symptoms are typically mild and their onset is gradual, appearing within 2–14 days of exposure to the virus. Some people develop more severe symptoms, while others do not have any symptoms at all.

Some symptoms of the novel coronavirus are similar to those of bronchitis. It can therefore be challenging to differentiate between the two conditions.

People who notice any change or worsening in their bronchitis symptoms should err on the side of caution and call their doctor.

People can take some steps to reduce their risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. For example, they should:

  • Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet (2 meters) from other people, especially those who are unwell.
  • Avoid crowds where possible.
  • Avoid all nonnessential travel.
  • Wash the hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces in the home, such as door handles, keys, remote controls, and faucets, regularly.
  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as cutlery and towels.
  • Stock up on food, medicines, and other essential supplies to reduce the number of trips to the drugstore and grocery store.
  • Have sick members of the household isolate themselves as much as possible until their symptoms resolve.
  • Keep bronchitis symptoms under control by following a prescribed treatment plan.

People who believe that they have come into contact with the virus should:

  • monitor their symptoms closely
  • take their temperature every day to check for fever
  • Call their doctor immediately if symptoms occur
  • seek urgent medical attention if breathing difficulties or chest pain develop

Because so little is known about COVID-19 at present, it is difficult to determine the outlook for people who develop the disease.

In general, the outlook seems to depend on factors such as:

  • the severity of the disease
  • the person’s age
  • the presence of any underlying health conditions

Severe cases can result in complications, such as pneumonia, organ failure, or death.

However, most people will have mild or moderate symptoms and recover well. Receiving prompt medical treatment can also help improve the outlook and reduce the risk of complications for people with severe disease.

Current research indicates that around 80% of people with COVID-19 have mild-to-moderate disease, 13.8% develop severe disease, and 6.1% reach a critical stage requiring intensive care.

At present, researchers and healthcare professionals know very little about the effects of COVID-19 on people with bronchitis. However, both conditions affect the lungs, and similar illnesses with cold- and flu-like symptoms can worsen bronchitis.

Therefore, people with bronchitis should take extra care to avoid contracting the virus. They can reduce their risk of acquiring it by maintaining a distance from others, avoiding all unnecessary trips, and practicing good hand hygiene.

Those who develop symptoms of coronavirus or who notice a worsening of their bronchitis symptoms should speak to their doctor. Those with difficulty breathing or chest pain should seek urgent medical care.

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