Coronavirus and Asthma: A Patient's Experience
Published Apr 2, 2020 • Updated Apr 6, 2020 • By Andrea Barcia
Tim, 34, has been asthmatic since he was 5 or 6 years old. Though the diagnosis was not fully confirmed at the outset of symptoms, he was infected with the coronavirus. What was his experience like? How is he today? He tells us everything!
Hello, what were the first symptoms you experienced?
Good morning. The first symptoms I felt were those of a "classic" flu, that is: fever, headache, muscle aches and severe fatigue. The next day, new "digestive" symptoms appeared, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Finally, on the third day, chest pain, respiratory distress, dyspnea (or shortness of breath) and wheezing began. At the same time, I also noticed a loss of smell and taste.
How and why were you tested? How was the test performed? How long did it take to get the results?
As I work at the hospital and am in contact with the so-called "at-risk" population, I had the opportunity to take the diagnostic test for Coronavirus the day after my symptoms appeared. I was called at a specific time and received by a emergency worker who was in charge of taking the contact details of everyone coming for the test (first and last name, address, phone number, etc.). I waited about fifteen minutes and sat in a room dedicated entirely to the testing. A doctor came and asked me some questions about my symptoms, my medical history, and my work as a psychologist (the population I come in contact with, where I work). The test they performed on me was a nasal swab. I was given the results by phone 24 hours later and received an email at home 48 hours later.
What have you been taking to relieve the symptoms of COVID-19? Have you been hospitalized?
No, I have not been admitted, as all the symptoms were manageable. In France, NSAID-type medications (Ibuprofen) are not recommended to treat COVID-19 because they are thought to be linked to a decrease in immune response function. So my treatment was simply composed of regular acetaminophen (Tylenol, Panadol) with a 6-hour waiting time between doses. As far as asthma is concerned, I usually have one or two attacks a week. With COVID-19, I tended to have up to two attacks a day. Fortunately, albuterol was still effective and helped to treat asthma attacks, even during the COVID-19.
How long have you had these symptoms? What has the evolution of the Coronavirus been?
The symptoms lasted about 15 days. To this day, I still have some mild symptoms (headaches, fatigue and chest pain). What differs from the so-called "classic" flu is precisely the evolution of the symptoms, with, as I described in my case, first the classic symptoms, then the digestive ones and finally the respiratory ones. For me, these respiratory symptoms are still the most distressing. After two weeks, when the symptoms have subsided, you feel as if you're recovered. But the symptoms fluctuate somewhat and can reappear, albeit with less intensity, after two days.
Did your asthma flare up after being diagnosed with COVID-19?
It's important to know that when I get sick, asthma always complicates the healing process and lengthens the necessary recovery time. For example, for a classic flu, I often have asthmatic bronchitis* that adds up and forces me to stay home for at least a week. As the symptoms of Coronavirus are essentially respiratory, it is obvious that asthma is a complicating factor. As I mentioned before, my attacks were more frequent and could reach up to two per day. Currently, although I feel better, I can still have one attack a day.
*A particular form of acute bronchitis that combines the classic symptoms of bronchitis with the respiratory signs characteristic of an asthma attack.
Have you had any specific medical follow-up for your asthma? How was the medical care?
From the time I was positively diagnosed with COVID-19, I received follow-up care. Twice a day, I was sent a specific questionnaire that allowed me to describe my symptoms. On these questionnaires, I was asked about my temperature, breathing cycles, blood pressure, respiratory symptoms, and feelings of chest pain. According to my answers, a dedicated doctor would call me daily to discuss the evolution of my symptoms. He also gave me advice and precautionary measures. In case of emergency, I was told to call 15 (the number for French emergency services) for possible admission to the hospital.
Author's note: in case of emergency in the US, you should call 911. Click here for more information on the procedure to follow..
Have you had to make any changes to your usual course of treatment?
No, my treatment has stayed the same, with generally three intakes of acetaminophen per day (morning, noon and night) and two intakes of albuterol per day.
Did you follow the protective measures during your illness?
From the moment I tested positive, I was of course put on sick leave, as my job could pose a risk to the patients I care for. I was also told to remain in total isolation for about ten days. So I have been confined to my home for two weeks and have not left it, so as to limit the risk of infecting others. Living as a couple, it has been difficult to follow the shielding recommendations for my spouse (about three feet of distance between us during meals, limitation of physical contact and separation during the night). Despite our best efforts to not spread the virus, she also fell ill after a few days.
And how do you feel today? Have you fully recovered?
Overall I feel better and the more distressing symptoms (high fever, shortness of breath and respiratory distress) seem to be behind me. However, after 15 days, some symptoms such as headache, fatigue and, in my case, asthma still persist. So, these symptoms continue to fluctuate over time. The doctor, who calls daily to check in, told me that recovery time varies greatly from one person to another. He also encourages me to stay in self-isolation because as long as I continue to have symptoms, I am potentially contagious. It takes three to four days in a row without symptoms to be considered fully recovered.
Have you been through this experience? Don't hesitate to share your story in the comments, in this time of crisis, information is important!
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