Waiting to exhale : COVID-19, asthma and COPD

04 Nov 2021

As the COVID-19 cases and deaths continue their inexorable rise in South Africa, winter sets in and lockdown measures are eased, we wait – with bated breath – for the crisis to peak. The uncertainty is difficult to navigate. We feel compelled to observe and appreciate every in- and exhalation, and in this way, find ourselves reflecting on other respiratory ills. Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), like severe COVID-19, are characterised by a struggle to breathe. Exacerbations may prove fatal. Unlike COVID-19, asthma and COPD cause obstructed airflow from the lungs, and may be managed pharmacologically. It follows that in order to breathe in, one has to breathe out, and treatments are therefore aimed at easing obstructions by targeting inflammation and bronchoconstriction.