Am *I* the vulnerable population?
March 23, 2020 6:47 AM   Subscribe

If I have mild asthma but am otherwise a very healthy young-ish person, should I be putting myself out there to run errands/ otherwise help people who are more at risk?

I'm a healthy, active early thirties woman with mild asthma since I was a kid (have a rescue inhaler that I use rarely-- every couple months typically). I'm also fortunate in that I don't have any older or vulnerable people in my life that I'll need to be around, though a couple older folks live in my apartment building.

I've offered to run errands for a few people in my life, but I'm trying to decide whether I should be adding my name to some of the mutual aid type networks that are popping up.

I want to be a helper in this tough time and run errands/deliver donations/etc but I don't want to put myself out there if it's likely I'll put unnecessary burden on the health care system if I do get sick. No one here is my doctor, but anyone have more in depth resources re: asthma and covid 19, or thought this dilemma out yourself? Thanks.
posted by geegollygosh to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
From what I've read, asthma in any form is very definitely a recognized risk factor. Yes, you are the vulnerable population and I don't think you should do this.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:17 AM on March 23, 2020 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I have asthma, and my doctor told me to take the highest possible precautions. She said to assume that if I got COVID that I would be a worst case scenario.

So. My adult daughter comes in to spend time with her sister, and we don't touch. My wife does the weekly shopping, and she strips down when she gets home, takes a shower, puts on fresh clothes. We also don't touch.

When I take a walk around the neighborhood with a friend, I wear a mask and we walk six feet apart from each other. We don't touch.

Knowing we don't have enough ventilators, and knowing that I (46, asthma, spinal cord injury) would lose the triage lottery against a 20 year old is enough to keep me from taking a chance on catching this.
posted by headspace at 7:29 AM on March 23, 2020 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Hey all, just to clarify-- if you don't have asthma yourself I am really only interested in specific resources that go a little more in depth about risk based on what we know from looking at China and other early cases. Thanks!
posted by geegollygosh at 7:36 AM on March 23, 2020

Best answer: No resources, but I have spent a lot of time thinking about this as I am a healthy, active early 40s woman with a history of childhoood asthma and developing secondary respiratory illnesses (bronchitis, pneumonia, pleurisy ) after things as simple as a mild cold. I like to be a helper. It's part of who I am. I think in this situation, however, the best way I can help is to stay home. I don't know how symptoms of COVID-19 will hit me, but I do know that my lungs, for whatever reason, don't have the best track record when it comes to staying healthy. My family appreciates my decision and my doctor is 100% onboard with my wish to avoid this particular bug.
posted by Lady Sugar Maple at 7:47 AM on March 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

Here is the recommendations for people with asthma straight from the CDC. I don't think specific risk factor data is available to the public yet.

Personally as someone with asthma and a history of viral bronchitis, I am following the CDC recommendations to the best of my ability.
posted by muddgirl at 8:00 AM on March 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I found a statement from the chair of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's Medical Scientific Council. He says, "At this time, there is very little clear data to demonstrate a specific increased risk for COVID-19 from asthma. The CDC still lists asthma as a comorbid condition that can increase your risk, but there are scant published data to support this contention. The published data comes from China, where asthma was NOT noted to be a risk factor in studies." But he does say, "Also, as I have mentioned before, other coronaviruses have been shown to exacerbate asthma, so it is possible that COVID-19 will do so, as well."
posted by Redstart at 8:04 AM on March 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I have asthma, and I had been super worried. But I read an article about how the actor Idris Elba, who has asthma, tested positive for coronavirus, but wasn't having any symptoms. Obviously that's just anecdotal, and just one person, but it made me feel a little better to know that it's at least possible to get coronavirus with asthma and not end up in the hospital. Personally, I am still taking extra precautions, just in case. If you decide to stay home, there are still ways you can help others. For example, making phone calls to elderly people to check on them.
posted by clarissajoy at 8:32 AM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: One of the mutual aid intake forms around here has an option where you can say “I am at risk and I want to offer help.” I think they’ll be matched with online help needs like video chats or phone calls. If there’s something like that where you are, it might be a good way for you to help.
posted by expialidocious at 8:36 AM on March 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hello twin! IANAD, but being in a similar situation to you, I'm nthing Lady Sugar Maple's take.

So part of the missing link here is that some people with asthma use daily inhaled and/or oral steroids (which are immunosuppressants) and other people like us with mild asthma (the kind where you only use a rescue inhaler) don't. Buried somewhere on that AAFP page, there's a bit of information to suggest that people on oral steroids probably want to avoid their exposure to any respiratory virus, but it doesn't say anything about risk factors for people who just use rescue inhalers.

However, if you're the sort of person whose lungs get trashed when you get a cold and who has ended up needing to use Symbicort or something similar during cold and flu season, maybe you want to play it safe. I'm someone who's gone years without needing my rescue inhaler Rx for even high-intensity cardio, but I've had enough colds turn into bronchitis needing inhaled steroids that I don't want to mess around with coronavirus.
posted by blerghamot at 9:28 AM on March 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm another "occasional use of a rescue inhaler" person - my Ventolin usually expires long before it's empty nowadays - but colds are one of the things that can sometimes make my asthma flare up. In the same spirit of caution that leads me to avoid known allergens (no pet cat for me) and get a flu jab every year, I'm doing my best to minimise my risk of catching COVID-19.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 10:01 AM on March 23, 2020

Best answer: I have asthma, have a prescription for daily Advair which I had been lazy about and use my rescue inhaler when doing sports or when sick. I am the designated grocery store person for my family and another, because all things considered I'm still in the best health and/or have the least risky transportation options available to me. I registered with my mutual aid network and said I could do grocery curbside pickup and doorstep delivery, once a week along with my personal errand day. I have been doing some pickups for neighbors and dropping things off at their door. I don't feel like random, frequent grocery trips are safe for me but I do think I can still help others who can't go at all by adding them to my trip.

My brother, who also has asthma, has been sick and though he can't be tested is being treated as if he has COVID-19. His symptoms have been what has been described as "mild" and he was knocked pretty flat, is very short of breath and using his rescue inhaler 4x/day on MD orders, plus has the order for nebulizer treatments PRN.

When I went to the store this week, once I got home I took my clothes off and put them in the washer, then showered.
posted by assenav at 11:22 AM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have asthma, and a presumptive case of COVID-19. I'm just waiting for the official test to come in. My asthma is normally very well controlled with Advair 250/50 and Sodium Montelukast, and before this bout of illness, I've only had to use my Pro Air about once every few months or so. Also for the flu jab late last year.

The week before I got sick with possible COVID-19, I was hiking around downtown Seattle, walking blocks with my work backpack, and hiked half a mile hope with a 5 lb bag of rice.

A few days after I got sick (high fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, chills), and the rest of my symptoms went away, I couldn't walk for more than a couple of minutes without wheezing, and using my rescue inhaler. It finally put be in Urgent Care (after my doctor and the consulting nurse had me go in) as a presumptive COVID-19 case, and I'm on both a slow taper down of a high dose of Prednisone, and I'm to use my Nebulizer whenever I need it. I'm still using my rescue inhaler about once a day, even though I'm basically sitting and working on my bed. I hope I get my test results later this week.

And this is only after leaving the house twice, for errands and work, since the beginning of March. Now I'm fully quarantined in, and friends are shopping for me.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:08 PM on March 23, 2020 [5 favorites]

I have pretty mild asthma and rarely catch colds, but when I do, I end up with bronchitis and a long asthma flare up and post-infection cough. I'm still recovering from a bout of illness over Christmas. I'm treating myself as having elevated but not maximum risk. I'm sitting tight at home and only leaving the house to pick up groceries at a quiet time in the store, or to take a walk round the block at a time when there won't be people about.

I wouldn't increase my risk exposure as part of mutual aid, but I would do things that keep it the same (eg picking up groceries when I was going anyway and leaving them on the doorstep). If it's helpful, the support that has made the most difference to me has been from people who are more confined than me but have been keeping our community more virtually connected.
posted by plonkee at 1:35 PM on March 23, 2020

i've had asthma my entire life, including years with all kinds of crazy complications. it only takes one very minor chest cold to lay me out flat. if i didn't have to go to work everyday, i would absolutely be self-isolating (i also have crap in surance and no access to inhalers, etc)
posted by megan_magnolia at 4:57 PM on March 23, 2020

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