Hyderabad-based engineer Samar Bhasin, 33, has suffered from asthma ever since he was nine. However, he rarely had more than an attack or two each year, usually triggered by exposure to animals or intensely dusty closed environments. But ever since he had Covid two months ago, Bhasin finds the frequency of his attacks to have increased. The intensity of his allergic reactions has also gone up. “I have had three attacks in two months. I don't even understand what is causing them. I find it difficult to breathe and also get skin rashes after an attack. This never happened before,” says Bhasin, who had mild Covid disease and recovered in six days.

A 2021 article in the BMJ journal notes the impact of Covid-19 on asthma patients. The study found that 59 per cent of such individuals had a harder time managing asthma after recovery from Covid. Around 67 per cent reported higher use of inhalers and 73 per cent had problems breathing. Similar trends are being observed by pulmonologists and respiratory specialists. “Asthma is a kind of hypersensitivity, with the body responding to an antigen or allergen one might have been exposed to. It may be because of pollen, hair, dust, house mites, fungus, change of season, even perfume—any trigger factor becomes an irritant,” says Dr Ashish Kumar Prakash, respiratory and sleep medicine consultant at Medanta, Gurugram.

This hypersensitivity can manifest as bronchial asthma, difficulty in breathing, sneezing or nasal blockage. “After Covid, asthma patients’ sensitivity seems to have increased. Many of them are reporting heightened sensitivity to allergens which they did not have prior to Covid disease,” adds Dr Prakash.

While Covid itself is not more harmful to asthma patients, it is the after-effects that have experts worried. “We do not yet know the long-term impact of Covid. So, simply because the Covid symptoms are mild cough or fever does not mean we shouldn't take steps to protect against infection,” says Dr Pavithra Venkatagopalan, director of the Covid task force on awareness, Rotary Club of Madras Next Gen. As the pandemic continues, it is the unknown and even surprising long-term effects of the virus that are being overlooked by people. “Vaccination, masks, hand hygiene and social distancing are a must,” says Venkatagopalan.

Many had no idea that the ‘mild illness’ would have such a drastic impact on their health and lifestyle. As Delhi-based homemaker Kirti Chaddha, 29, says: “I got Covid three months ago, and still find it difficult to run as long as I used to before. I had very mild illness—only two days of fever.” From increased hair loss to changes in menstruation patterns, from heightened allergies to weakened joints, there is still much to ascertain about Long Covid.

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