You may not have to worry about being at higher risk for COVID-19 if you suffer from seasonal allergies or asthma, according to new research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. This research contradicts earlier concerns that both allergies and asthma could increase the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms. Here’s what you need to know about this new research and the link between COVID-19 and allergies.
COVID-19 and Allergies/Asthma: Why Aren’t They a Risk Factor?
The new research referenced above built off of observations of COVID-19 from China. In large evaluations of severe COVID-19 cases, a number of different risk factors emerged that could increase a patient’s risk of developing severe symptoms. Some of these risk factors included heart disease, COPD, high blood pressure and diabetes. What was notably lacking, though, was an observed association between asthma or severe allergies and COVID-19.
To find out why these common respiratory illnesses didn’t correlate with higher COVID-19 risks. the researchers looked to the receptors to which the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds. As it turns out, the ACE2 receptor, the primary binding site for the virus, exhibits lower expression in people with asthma and allergies. As a result, these people are not more likely to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Why Are These Findings Surprising?
While this is obviously good news for people who suffer from asthma or allergies, these findings were somewhat surprising. People with existing respiratory conditions are often especially vulnerable to viral respiratory infections. This has been a major concern of respiratory patients during the pandemic, since a range of existing conditions have been shown to increase the risk of severe COVID-19 cases.
In spite of these findings, it’s important to keep them in perspective. Having asthma and allergies doesn’t protect you against COVID-19, but your risks don’t appear to be higher than the general population. Basic precautions, including social distancing, rigorous hand-washing, wearing a mask and properly disinfecting packages, mail and other items delivered to your house are still extremely important.