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Taking a regular steroid inhaler reduces risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms for people with asthma

Last Update 12/04/2021

A summary of research published in the Lancet


A new study has found that taking a regular steroid inhaler can reduce the risk of severe symptoms of COVID-19.

The research, published in the Lancet, aimed to understand whether existing lung conditions make people more severely ill with COVID-19 and whether medication for these conditions has an impact.

What did the study look at?

The researchers collected information from 75,463 people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in the UK between 17 January 2020 and 3 August 2020. They looked at whether the person had asthma, chronic pulmonary disease, or both. They also collected information on their age, the medication they were taking, what treatment they received for COVID-19 and whether they died.

What do the results show?

The results found that underlying lung conditions were common in people admitted to hospital for COVID-19. Specifically, the authors found that:

  • People with asthma were significantly more likely than those without asthma to receive critical care in hospital.
  • In people aged between 16 and 49 years, only those with severe asthma had an increase in the risk of dying compared to those without asthma.
  • Among people aged 50 years and older, those with chronic pulmonary disease had a significantly higher risk of dying, regardless of inhaler use, compared to people without an underlying lung condition.
  • In people with asthma aged 50 years and older, use of a prescribed steroid inhaler (preventer inhaler)  within 2 weeks of admission to hospital was linked to a lower risk of dying.
Why is this important?

As we learn more about COVID-19, it is crucial to understand why some people become more ill and require hospital treatment, compared to others. This study helps us understand how underlying lung conditions could affect the course of the infection. A key finding shows that regular use of steroid inhalers could help to reduce the risk of death for older people with asthma.

Read the original research paper

Title: Risk of adverse outcomes in patients with underlying respiratory conditions admitted to hospital with COVID-19: a national, multicentre prospective cohort study using the ISARIC WHO Clinical Characterisation Protocol UK

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(21)00013-8/fulltext

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