When COVID and Asthma collide

You can do everything right and still get COVID!

It really seems to be something that’s making the rounds these days. Most of us know at least one person (or 12) who just tested positive. If you have asthma, that doesn’t make it any less worrying. It’s a little less scary than 2020 or 2021, but not by much!

I was a bit neurotic during the pandemic. I was the one wiping groceries and wearing plastic gloves at the grocery store. Early on, I created a nightly “checklist” to ensure our home stays COVID-free. While some of my family members got together for Christmas, I didn’t.

It was too much, but I knew I had to be diligent because it was communicated regularly: “If you have a pre-existing condition like asthma, COVID could be very difficult for you.” COVID affects your lungs. So if you have asthma, you are already at risk.

Then came more research, treatments, vaccines, increased testing, mask mandates lifted, and some people slowly returned to work. Stores that appeared to be selling super-unhealthy foods had staff wiping everything down like clockwork. I think we’ve all let our guard down a bit.

I certainly have a little.

I was planning a trip to Paris to celebrate my birthday. I had a great time. I ate croissants and baguettes. I tried French perfume. I wore a beret. I smiled at the Eiffel Tower.

I also continued to wear my mask as much as possible. I washed my hands frequently. I tried my best to keep my distance in a city full of people. I had a wonderful time. And then just like that: I have COVID!

I have tested several times (maybe 20 or more) – whether before traveling or because I was experiencing a slightly stuffy nose. Every time the test had this nice one line. Negative! Throw in the trash!

This time, those two lines appeared almost immediately. I was panicking. After all, I have asthma! The first few days were pure fear. I realized pretty quickly that I was going to have a bit of a bumpy ride. I didn’t realize my symptoms at first, and after testing negative at first, I was a bit [re]relaxed with my health protocols. I protected others around me by staying away (just in case), but I didn’t attack it with full effort until I knew for sure. i was scared COVID affects the lungs. Asthma affects the lungs. This is not a game made in heaven!

After the initial shock, some disappointment (it feels like failure when you get it) and renewed epic fear, I moved into a place of acceptance. I went from terror to fight.

Like many things in life, it became a question of will. I made the right decision and then I got to work.

Here’s what I did to get to the other side. Everyone is different, so ask your doctor about it.

  1. I’ve told people I’ve tested positive — especially when we’ve been together. This seemed like a common practice in the early days of the pandemic, but I don’t feel it’s that common. It was important to me to let people know. Some people (like my parents) have tested positive. Others around me don’t. It was my duty to share. I couldn’t fully focus on my healing until I made sure those around me were aware.
  2. I checked my vital signs – every few hours at first, then daily. At the doctor’s direction, I checked my temperature (making sure it was going down every day), oxygen/O2 levels (making sure it was going up every day), pulse and blood pressure.
  3. I went to the doctor as soon as I found out I was positive. This may not be necessary for everyone, but since I have asthma (and have had symptoms for several days), I wanted to know if my lungs sounded okay and if my symptoms were of concern to the doctor. I actually went a second time when my cough wouldn’t stop to make sure I wasn’t showing any signs of pneumonia. She did a chest X-ray to make sure my lungs (except for some normal inflammation) were fine. They were, and that reassured me.
  4. I focused on my breathing. COVID or no COVID, if you are constipated and cough frequently, it becomes difficult to breathe. Add asthma into the mix and your lungs just aren’t right. It was important for me to focus on deep breathing and pay close attention to changes in my breathing. One sign of pneumonia is wheezing (or a whistle) when you breathe, so I kept an eye out for that. Luckily my breathing never got that bad and I was able to avoid pneumonia.
  5. I did some yoga to make my breathing even better. I found a video on YouTube specifically for people with COVID who wanted to help open their chests a little to breathe a little easier. It helped! It also helped my fear of having COVID. Cheers to yoga!
  6. I used my rescue inhaler as needed. I found I needed it a little more and my doctor encouraged me to use it when I did. I didn’t like making my moves, but I didn’t want to have a crisis either.
  7. My appetite wasn’t great in the early days of COVID. But when I ate (basically my husband asked me to try what he brought me on a tray) it was healthy—fruit, some sugar-free applesauce, some hot soup. I also took vitamins C, D and zinc which are recommended anyway to keep your immune system strong.
  8. I talked to friends and family to keep my spirits up. Being in quarantine is no fun – especially when you’re an extrovert! When asked by a friend what I do to pass the time, I said, “Well, I quit Netflix!” It’s lonely to be in an isolated and disconnected space. A few hours can feel like an eternity! COVID can play tricks on you so I had to talk to people to cheer me up when I had the energy. It was some kind of vitamin.
  9. I took time off work to heal and recover. I got COVID after being out of the office for 2 weeks for my vacation. I hadn’t planned a third week! Fortunately, I work for an organization that allows flexibility and supports a healthy work-life balance. My boss is great. She encouraged me to take the time I needed and I’m glad I did. I firmly believe that this has contributed to my recovery.
  10. I prayed. Much has been written about the connection between faith/spiritual life and health. In my deepest times I prayed. I asked to be healed. Guess what? It worked. It worked.

Credit: Grace Cary/Moment via Getty Images

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