People with asthma, lung conditions need COVID-19 action plan

Symptoms related to COVID-19 can escalate quickly, and doctors recommend that people who may be at high risk prepare an action plan. A Virginia doctor has these tips to help get you started.

“If things are progressing, you’re not getting better with your fever, your cough, and you’re starting to develop shortness of breath — especially if you already have an underlying lung disease that can make this escalate pretty quickly — then we need to have someone that you’ve talked to beforehand,” Dr. Bobby Mahajan said.

Mahajan is the medical director of interventional pulmonology at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

The time to worry about who can take you to the hospital and other logistics is not immediately after hearing from your doctor that you need professional care, Mahajan said.

Make a plan. “Then, no one is panicked; no one is nervous. You have a plan that you’ve already discussed. You can enact it and be as safe as possible getting to the ER,” Mahajan said.

bobby mahajan
Dr. Bobby Mahajan, Inova Fairfax Hospital, says you need a COVID-19 plan if you have a lung condition. (Courtesy Dr. Bobby Mahajan)

Call ahead to let the emergency room know that you are coming, so staff can don appropriate protective equipment and prepare a room for isolation.

“If you can give them a heads up or a little forewarning, it makes the entire process smoother,” Mahajan said.

If you’re otherwise healthy and have a fever, chills and cough, and can ride it out at home while staying isolated, please do it, Mahajan said.

“That’s going to minimize spread and stop our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.”

Mahajan advised that people with underlying lung issues and questions call the American Lung Association hotline at 1-800-LUNGUSA.

Respiratory therapists and nurses staff the hotline, and they can answer questions about risk factors, spread and what to do if you’re concerned about having to go to the hospital if you’re having COVID-19 symptoms.

Another bit of advice from Mahajan: If you smoke, quit smoking.

An exaggerated inflammatory response in the lungs is what makes people so sick with COVID-19.

“Putting your lungs at a disadvantage in any way — by smoking, vaping or things of that nature — is something you want to avoid,” he said.

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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