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Does OSA make you more vulnerable to Covid?
Posted on January 10th, 2022
As the Covid pandemic continues, we’re finally getting studies about how obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects Covid-19. The short answer is “very badly.” A recent study from scientists in Iceland has clarified the link between OSA and severe Covid-19 outcomes.
Until now, it’s been hard to be sure how much OSA affects Covid-19 outcomes because so many comorbidities of OSA (old age, high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease) lead to severe Covid on their own. Icelandic scientists analyzed the case histories of 6,126 adults who were Covid positive. One-hundred-and-eighty-five of them had been diagnosed with OSA as well.
After controlling for comorbidities, OSA patients were twice as likely to need to be hospitalized or die than patients without Covid. There also seemed to be a greater risk for patients who used a PAP machine compared to those who did not, but the researchers think this counterintuitive result may be due to the small study size.
I have OSA. What should I do about the increased risk of Covid-19?
If you have OSA, don’t panic. Your risk is greater than the general population, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself:
Get vaccinated and boosted if you haven’t already
If you snore but don’t have an OSA diagnosis, get screened and treated
If you have Covid-19 symptoms, take a test early so you can access therapeutics
If you have OSA and catch Covid, use a pulse-ox to monitor your oxygen levels
Remember, this is doubling your previous risk level – if you are young and vaccinated the risk of poor outcomes is still extremely small
In addition, it’s important to know that this increased risk is not just for Covid-19. Scientists have found poorer outcomes with OSA for RSV and the flu as well. When you have untreated or under-treated OSA, you’re not getting the rest you need to heal from respiratory infections, and because you struggle to breathe at night, respiratory viruses can be especially deadly. With OSA, it’s important to monitor your symptoms and communicate closely with your primary care provider whenever you’re sick.
Would you like to learn more about how OSA affects your whole-body health? Airway is Life provides a great introduction to the subject and can help you and your family members get treated and be healthier.
Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website: MeghnaDassani.com.
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