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COPD Flares vs. COVID-19 Symptoms: Knowing the Difference

Updated on May 03, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Allen J. Blaivas, D.O.
Article written by
Heather Lapidus Glassner

Right now our society is facing a rapidly spreading disease, the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The virus is spreading in a way that has only been seen a few times in the past century, most dramatically with the 1918 Spanish flu. The way people are spending their days has changed quickly and radically. Offices and schools are closed; even restaurants and malls are temporarily shutting down. In addition to the impact on their daily lives, members of myCOPDteam also might worry about whether they are extra susceptible to the coronavirus because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or the treatments they take for the condition.

Special Concerns for Those With Respiratory Conditions

Members of myCOPDteam are wondering about the risks of coronavirus. Based on research out of China about the new coronavirus, people with COPD and other respiratory conditions are at greater risk for becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. That is why it’s especially important to be aware of any symptoms. One challenge for those who have breathing difficulties such as COPD or asthma is figuring out the difference between a typical flare-up or exacerbation and the symptoms of a viral illness.

The Coronavirus and COPD Flares

According to the COPD Foundation, it may be difficult to tell whether symptoms are those of a normal COPD exacerbation or whether they might be due to the new coronavirus. It may help to know that fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, but most people with COPD do not experience fever as a symptom of a flare-up. If you have a fever or have any questions about how you are feeling, or you are unsure if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, make sure you reach out via telephone or online portal to your health care provider. Also, as of March 6, 2020, Medicare is now covering telehealth services to treat COVID-19 (and "for other medically reasonable purposes").

Tips for Managing Your Health During the Coronavirus Emergency

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended on March 11, 2020 that individuals in high-risk groups should avoid attending public events with more than 10 people. The advice from the CDC is changing on a daily basis. You can find the latest updates and guidance from the CDC about COVID-19 here.

In addition to the safety measures to protect one’s health, people with COPD may want to develop a contingency plan in case they are unable to leave their home. Steps to consider include:

  • Contacting your health care provider or health insurance company about obtaining an extra supply of necessary medications.
  • Checking with your oxygen supplier to see how they will handle routine oxygen needs.
  • Setting up a mail-order service for medication, if available.
  • Stocking up on over-the-counter medications to treat fever, cough, and cold symptoms — as well as necessities such as tissues.
  • Ordering groceries or supplies through Amazon or another delivery service to minimize public contact.
  • Having enough household items and groceries on hand to be prepared to stay at home for an extended period of time.
  • If you have people who come in to help, such as a relative or home health aide, making sure they are washing their hands properly and asking what steps they are taking to avoid contracting COVID-19.
  • Making a plan to reach out to friends or loved ones by phone or video chat to minimize feelings of isolation. As always, myCOPDteam offers a support group more than 100,000 strong of other people facing the same condition as you, always available online.

How are you getting through this trying time? Do you have tips or recommendations on how to prepare? Join the conversation by commenting below or posting on MyCOPDTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Allen J. Blaivas, D.O. is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in Critical Care Medicine, Pulmonary Disease, and Sleep Medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Heather Lapidus Glassner has over two decades of experience in market research. She has conducted social listening and quantitative survey research across a variety of conditions. Learn more about her here.

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