Concerns With COPD And COVID-19 Explained

Lung Center of Nevada, a division of Comprehensive Cancer Centers, provides treatment for various pulmonary diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Given the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in Southern Nevada, question emerges about risks for the virus for those with COPD.

While we encourage caution for everyone, including those we treat with COPD, those with the condition are not at any greater risk to contract COVID-19 than anyone else. What is important to understand, though, is that for people with COPD, COVID-19 is going to be much more dangerous if contracted.

What Happens If You Have COPD And You Get COVID-19

The lungs are the key organs to be affected by COPD. COPD is a long-term condition and while it can be managed with treatment, it does not go away. For those with COPD, the flow of air in lungs is partially obstructed or blocked, and COVID-19 is well known for the respiratory issues caused by the virus.

COVID-19 attacks epithelial cells that line the airways and filter viruses and pollutants. The danger from COVID-19 is that the virus causes damage to these cells, including making them thicker which makes passing oxygen to the bloodstream more difficult.

For those with COPD, we urge them to be mindful about the risks of contracting COVID-19. If someone with COPD gets COVID-19 and struggles to breathe, that could lead to the requirement of breathing support, such as through a ventilator. Outcomes for patients requiring ventilation are far more challenging than those without, so COPD patients are urged to follow public health guidance to prevent that from happening.

People with COPD, and other pulmonary conditions, particularly those with more advanced disease, have lower lung function which can be measured by o2 levels. Measurement of o2 levels is commonly done with a pulse oximeter. Low oxygen levels may present with any of the following symptoms: shortness of breath, headaches, restlessness, dizziness, rapid breathing, chest pain, confusion, high blood pressure, lack of coordination, visual disorders, sense of euphoria and a rapid heartbeat.

For those with COPD, some of these symptoms may be common occurrences, making COVID-19 even more dangerous.

When you have COPD, and even when it’s properly treated, there can be some issues with breathing and oxygen levels, which given their normal part of living with the condition, may be dismissed as nothing serious. This is another reason why we urge our patients to be even more mindful of their health during COVID-19, so they don’t dismiss a symptom of the virus as nothing out of the ordinary and refrain from getting tests or treatments that they may need.

Reduce Risks Of COVID-19

Patients can reduce risks of getting COVID-19 by following basic and now largely commonly known mitigation strategies. These include:

  • Regular and Thorough Handwashing/Cleaning – Use soap and water for 20 seconds, or a dose of hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content.
  • Social Distancing – Avoid contact with sick people in your home who may have COVID-19 and when outside of your home, put at least six feet of space between yourself and others.
  • Cover Your Face / Have Others Cover Their Faces – Because people who aren’t yet symptomatic can spread the virus, people over age two need to wear face masks when they’re around those with COPD.
  • Get Vaccinated – Get the flu shot to give yourself better defenses against the influenza virus which will keep your lungs healthy and if you get a cold hopefully keep you from needing to get medical help when hospitals are filled with COVID-19 patients. Additionally, new research suggests the flue shot may protect you from developing severe symptoms from COVID-19.
  • Get a COVID-19 Vaccine – While the vaccine is not yet widely available yet, it is rolling out and the opportunity to get one is coming soon. For those with COPD, and their loved ones, strongly consider getting the vaccine when you can.

Lung Center of Nevada, a division of Comprehensive, also urges COPD patients take extra precautions during these final months before COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available. This includes passing on opportunities to attend large group gathers with family and friends, continue wearing masks even if cases drop, and avoiding stores during peak times and consider takeout for dining, for a little while longer.

While we are closer to the end of COVID-19, with vaccines rolling out and new treatments becoming available. We urge everyone with COPD to continue to have patience.

Lung Center of Nevada Can Help

Lung Center of Nevada, a division of Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada provides dedicated services for patients with various pulmonary diseases and sleep disorders. To set up a consultation, please call 702-737-5864.


The content is this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.