COVID-19 and lung damage is still a very new problem, and while research so far can tell us some of the impacts of COVID-19 on respiratory disease there is still a lot of uncertainty. That being said, it is important to fact-check information that you see on the internet, especially when it comes to something as serious as COVID-19 and lung damage.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is fast spreading and highly contagious, and while the vaccine is rolling out in the United States and internationally, catching COVID-19 is still cause for concern.
Here is a summary of the blog you are about to read:
- COVID-19 has lasting effects on your respiratory system
- People with lung disease have a high chance of experience harsher symptoms from COVID-19 than a person with no pre-existing conditions
- Don’t be fooled, if you are vaccinated you can still catch COVID-19, yet the effects of covid are much more mild than if you are not vaccinated, and this includes the damage to your lungs
How Does COVID-19 Affect your Lungs
COVID-19 can affect your lungs in mild and sometimes severe ways, and a lot of this depends on your health prior to catching the virus. If you have a relatively healthy respiratory system and have no pre-existing conditions COVID-19 can still hurt your lungs but not as badly as someone who already suffers from a chronic illness.
One of the most common implications caused by COVID-19 is pneumonia and in the most severe cases, acute respiratory distress syndrome. There is also the possibility of Sepsis as a complication of COVID-19, and this can also cause lasting damage to your lungs and other organs.
COVID-19 and Pneumonia
When you get pneumonia, your lungs fill with fluid and become inflamed, leading to breathing difficulties, this is extremely painful for lung patients who have diseases like Chronic Obstructive Respiratory Disease (COPD). When someone with COPD gets COVID-19 the symptoms can become so severe they require treatment at the hospital with a portable oxygen concentrator or even a ventilator.
Pneumonia occurs when your air sacs in your lungs fill with fluid, this limits their ability to take in oxygen and causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough and other symptoms.
While most people recover from pneumonia without any lasting lung damage, the pneumonia associated with COVID-19 can be severe, and people with lung disease have an even harder time healing from this.
Even after the disease has passed, the damage to your lungs may result in breathing difficulties that take a lot of time to heal completely, and with chronic conditions, it is unlikely the damage will heal completely.
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and COVID-19
COVID-19 that causes pneumonia can progress further into a more severe state, and the air sacs which become filled with fluid start to leak from blood vessels in your lungs. Inevitably, breathlessness occurs, which can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome. ARDS is essentially a version of lung failure.
Patients with ARDS are usually unable to breath by themselves and may require a ventilator to help their bodies circulate oxygen through their body.
Sepsis and COVID-19
In severe cases of COVID-19 and people who also suffer from preexisting conditions, sepsis is another serious complication. Sepsis is a fast spreading infection that moves through the bloodstream, causing tissue damage everywhere it goes.
Sepsis causes long-lasting lung damage and also affects other organs in the long term.
Reducing the Chance of Lung Damage from COVID-19
If you have chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, COPD or heart disease, its crucial for you to continue taking your medication and treating your disease optimally.
Take your oxygen as prescribed and monitor your health status and report to your doctor over the phone regularly. You can also use a pulse oximeter to measure when and if you are breathing appropriately.
Everyone, especially lung patients, need to maintain adequate nutrition by eating healthy and staying hydrated, this will keep your immune system healthy. Also double check that you are up to date with all of your vaccinations, even just getting the common flu can weaken your immune system and leave you more susceptible to catching COVID-19.
Also, be wary of any information you read on the internet that's not supported by researchers and institutions which require a peer review process in order to be published. Because COVID is relatively a new virus, the research is still in progress meaning that most results from studies over the past year and a half are not conclusive yet.
For example, you might have seen reports of vitamins, minerals and prophylaxis medications that can prevent/ or reduce lung damage, however there are no peer reviewed studies that are supporting it at this time.
The best way to avoid COVID-19 and worsening lung damage is to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Is the vaccine safe for people with lung conditions?
There have been a plethora of studies that have concluded the vaccine is safe for people with lung conditions. The vaccine has been tested on people with long-term conditions and people from all age groups including older people.
In fact, it has been decided that people who are at high-risk should be prioritized to get the vaccine first. At this time, there is no reason to think the vaccine interferes with any medications and therefore, your treatment for your lung condition should continue as normal.
If you have asthma and you use biologics (otherwise known as mAbs, or monoclonal antibodies), talk to your doctor to discuss the timing of your vaccine and your asthma biologic. There is no evidence to show the vaccines are unsafe for you, however it’s advisable that there should be 7-day gap between your vaccine and your next asthma biologic.
Do not stop taking or change any of your medicines without speaking to your doctor first.
So how do we know the vaccine is safe?
Any approved vaccines must meet a strict criteria of safety, quality and effectiveness. And so all of the approved coronavirus vaccines go through certain clinical trials and they are checked that same way as any licensed medicines are checked. Other vaccines are being developed, but they will only be available to the public once they’ve been thoroughly tested.
A vaccine can not be given to people until the FDA oversees extensive lab testing of the vaccine. Usually this can take many years in order to ensure it is safe and effective. Because the COVID-19 vaccine was only developed and tested in a short period of time, some risk is involved, however data indicates that all of the available COVID-19 vaccines are safe.
Also the risk of COVID-19 is far greater than the small risk of the vaccine.
We know this because we can look at the rate of severe or life-threatening reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine, which is estimated to be about 1 in 100,000 patients, whereas the risk right now of dying from COVID-19 is substantially higher than that.
There are many deadly diseases that have been technically eradicated with the introduction of a vaccine. For example, Polio, Tetanus, The Flu (Influenza), Hepatitis B and A, Measles, Whooping Cough, and so many others have a vaccine that is successful in reducing the contamination and spread of the disease, and save millions of lives. COVID-19 can be added to this list eventually!
The risk of COVID-19 having long term effects and damaging your lungs is high for any person, but extremely high for someone with a pre-existing lung condition. If you have lung disease already, catching COVID-19 could mean hospitalization and it can be life threatening.
There are a number of ways to avoid catching COVID-19 by social distancing, washing your hands, and wearing a mask, and on top of all of those recommendations is to get vaccinated.
If you are still wary of getting the vaccine, talk to your doctor, they can go over your medication that you take and reassure you that the vaccine will not interfere with your medical condition nor your treatments.
Side effects of the vaccine are very normal, and oftentimes unavoidable and even uncomfortable. That being said, these short-lived side effects are much less dangerous than being exposed and unprotected against the coronavirus.
If you have a lung condition like asthma, COPD, of cystic fibrosis, continue to treat your disease during the pandemic. It is important that you stay healthy and get stronger so that your body is capable of fighting ailments including COVID-19. While exposure to coronavirus is extremely dangerous due to the virus and its contagious properties, the healthier you are the better.
If you need oxygen, be sure you have a portable oxygen concentrator that is reliable and durable. For all of your oxygen accessories needs, head over to the LPT Medical website or call 1(800)-946-1202 to speak with a respiratory specialist.
If you are prescribed an oxygen concentrator for chronic health problems and you experience symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor. Do not change your oxygen levels on your own, unless you have been told to do so by your doctor.