The novel Coronavirus has left many medical practitioners and health science professionals in a quandary. The novelty of the virus creates a conundrum for doctors on how to go about mitigating the spread of the virus. Granted, a cure has not been found yet, but this does not mean that the doctors in the labs aren’t doing whatever they can to try and alleviate the world of this pandemic. Quite the contrary. Scientists are spending numerous hours trying to understand what the virus is all about. This pursuit of knowledge and understanding has been facilitated by a myriad of studies conducted in areas hit by the pandemic. One of the said studies concerns individuals with preexisting lung conditions, specifically allergies, and asthma.
Pet allergies are very common. People who are experiencing these types of allergies exhibit symptoms akin to those that are allergic to pollen. But what exactly causes allergies? When you breathe, you not only take in the air. Impurities floating about in the air are also inhaled. Some of these impurities include pollen and dust. When you are in the presence of a fur animal, like a cat, dog, or even a horse, or share the same environment with one, you are also likely to be in contact with dander. The dander is in the fur. When people with pet allergies are exposed to this dander, they begin to develop the symptoms that characterize their allergy; coughing, sneezing, running nose, nasal congestion. Individuals with both asthma and pet allergies may experience an asthmatic attack when exposed to the dander.
Pet allergies and the Coronavirus
Since the Covid-19 is a respiratory disease, it was initially assumed that people with asthma and allergies were susceptible to exhibit the severe symptoms of the coronavirus. At the bare minimum, it was expected that the said individuals would have the same probability of getting infected with the virus, like the rest of the population. However, data collected from medical facilities all over the world seems to contradict this. Take the study in China as an example. Of the entire population, five percent have allergy-based asthma. The expectation drawn from such a demographic is that five percent of the people hospitalized with the virus could have asthma. That wasn’t the case at all. Less than one percent of those in the hospital had the said lung condition. Similar metrics were obtained in the United States. Why is that?
Doctors all the world over have developed a plethora of reasons as to why this is happening. However, some stand out. Once an individual is in contact with the virus or inhales it, it enters into the respiratory system. However, the virus still needs a route via which it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. The pathway taken is through a special protein in the lungs’ cell, known as the ACE2 receptors. Consequently, a high number of these receptors will result in a higher risk of contracting the virus and exhibiting the full-blown effect.
People who suffer from high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes have shown to have a proliferated expression of these receptors and are therefore highly susceptible to getting the virus. A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin identified that people with allergic asthma and pet allergies have a significantly low number of these receptors. The reason for this isn’t known exactly.
Another factor that can lead to this somewhat immunity amongst allergic and asthmatic individuals is the type of medication taken to treat or even mitigate the symptoms of allergic reactions. Airway –dilating medicine and steroids are normally prescribed for this function. Medications like budesonide and salbutamol inhalers can minimize the risk of a severe Covid-19 infection. A research paper was published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine in May 2020, concluding that in in-vitro models, inhaled corticosteroids either alone or combined with bronchodilators can suppress the replication of the Covid-19 virus in the body while also suppressing the production of cytokines. The medications seem to prevent the multiplication of the virus.
The effect of the drugs on cytokines may also be significant. Cytokines play a fundamental role in how the body responds to inflammations and infections, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. These molecules instruct infection-fighting cells in the body on where exactly to go. In moderation, they are very significant to your recovery. However, an influx in their levels in the blood, a condition known as ‘cytokine storm’, could result in the swelling, inflammation, and failure of your internal body organs. The Covid-19 virus does this exact thing, it increases the body’s Cytokine levels. Suppressing these levels is, therefore, a fundamental task.
The third reason brought forward is that the people with asthma and allergies are simply more careful in the way they conduct their activities because they know that they already have a preexisting respiratory symptom, and any play about could have detrimental results. This is perhaps even more palpable when the other factors come into play.
Is everyone with asthma safe?
No. not in the least. It is important to remember that even scientists are not sure as to why this phenomenon is happening and even, they are trying to understand it. The surveys done have been conducted on a very small demographic. So, nothing is set in stone. Furthermore, it is also essential to understand that the surveys have provided data showing that it is only those with allergy-induced asthma that have this provisional immunity of sorts, and not everyone with asthma has the allergy-induced kind. True, a majority of those with asthma, about 80 percent, are allergy-induced, but not everyone is. Even the treatment the asthmatic patient receives could determine whether he or she is indeed in this category. Some of the medications issued for the condition include biologics, drugs that address the inflammation directly, and oral steroids. Such medicine can compromise the immunity of the people taking them, making them even more vulnerable to the harsh symptoms the virus might pose on the body.
With the data collected in the previous months, reasonable conclusions can be drawn out that a cat allergy can save you from a case of Covid-19. Nevertheless, the timeframe for the studies is too short and the number of people the survey was conducted on was too little. As a result, everyone is advised to adhere strictly to the protocols set by the state and national health safety guidance, for we aren’t out of the woods yet. If you do develop any of the symptoms attributed to the virus, for your own safety and that of your loved ones, get tested as soon as possible.