Does COVID-19 Cause COPD? [Medical Experts Explain]

Does COVID-19 Cause COPD? [Medical Experts Explain]

COVID-19 is a contagious virus that caused a global health crisis. This virus can exacerbate lung issues, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD alone makes it tough to breathe. It limits you from doing easy daily tasks, including walking and climbing the stairs. Although COVID-19 affects your body differently, it can put additional strain on the respiratory system.

Check out this article to uncover the answers to questions like, “can COVID cause COPD?” and its short term and long term fitness conditions relationship.

Does COVID Cause COPD?

There is no evidence that COVID-19 causes COPD. However, it may lead to the overall worsening of COPD and other lung diseases. Inflammation due to COVID-19’s effect on the immune system can impair the air sacs, causing them to stiffen, scar, or fill with fluid.

It prevents oxygen from passing through your lungs to the bloodstream, leading to lower blood oxygen levels and symptoms such as shortness of breath.

SARS COV-2, according to National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), infects the cells along the airways by binding to a protein that can function as a doorway for the virus to infiltrate airway cells and spread.

Studies have demonstrated that 2% of patients diagnosed with COVID are also diagnosed with COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, patients of advanced age are at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 cases due to their more vulnerable immune systems and reduced lung elasticity.

elderly man sitting while talking to a doctor

The Relationship Between COVID and COPD

You may be wondering what is the relationship between COVID and COPD, and we have the answer for you. Coronavirus disease 2019 COVID-19 is a systemic and respiratory illness that may advance to severe hypoxemia, requiring several oxygen therapies and mechanical ventilation assistance.

In some cases, COPD patients have no greater chance of becoming infected with COVID than others. However, they are more likely to experience severe complications if infected. Patients with COPD tend to suffer worse consequences upon contracting COVID-19.

Scientists observed increased groups of angiotensin converting enzyme 2 in COPD patients infected by the coronavirus. However, individual COVID-19 analyses have yet to consistently note a remarkably higher rate of severe conditions in COPD patients.

Differentiating COVID-19 vs. COPD Symptoms

Most patients who get sick with COVID-19 can develop mild to moderate respiratory manifestations. However, individuals more sensitive to infections and sickness may acquire more intense disease cases.

It may be challenging to distinguish COVID from COPD symptoms. However, below are some of the distinct symptoms you need to know!

COVID-19 Symptoms

COPD Symptoms

High fever

May experience fever, but not often

Loss of smell or taste

Excess sputum or phlegm

Shortness of breath

Trouble taking deep breaths

New continuous cough

Frequent wheezing or coughing

Chest pains

Chest congestions

How To Know If It’s COPD Or COVID-19?

Although a fever could mean you are suffering from COVID-19, testing is required to determine whether your manifestations are a diagnosis of COVID-19, COPD, or some other respiratory infection. Visit your physician if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Consistent shortness of breath
  • Worsening breathing problems
  • More wheezing
  • More coughing
  • New types of coughing
  • Declining blood oxygen levels at rest 
  • Frequent use of rescue inhaler
  • Increasing oxygen use 
  • Changes in the amount and color of phlegm

woman with covid wiping nose with tissue

The Effects Of COVID-19 To COPD Patients

Generally speaking, the older you are, the higher your risk of diseases, and the more severe your illnesses are, the more significant it is to safeguard yourself against COVID-19. In addition, suffering from COPD may pose additional harm because your busted airways may have difficulty battling the coronavirus. 

For the record, about 80% of individuals can fully recover from COVID-19 even without special medical treatment. However, if you are a COPD patient, COVID-19 puts you at a higher risk of becoming severely ill. 

Illness can begin two to fourteen days after exposure. The outcomes of COVID-19 infection are potentially more dire, so if you experience symptoms, you must immediately seek medical attention.

With that, you must adopt more restrictive efforts to minimize exposure to SARS COV-2 and contact with individuals with presumed or confirmed cases of COVID-19 because it can trigger more severe lung disease.

How COPD Patients Can Protect Themselves For COVID-19 

Getting vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 will help protect you. In addition, if the virus is spreading in your place, stay at home as much as possible. However, you can go out for urgent appointments, such as grocery shopping and medical meetings. 

Do not hesitate to contact your doctor if you have anxieties or questions about your health, especially concerning COVID-19 or vaccines. You and your healthcare provider can work with the proper medications to help protect you from COVID-19 and manage your COPD simultaneously.

Enhance Your Protection

Once you get your initial COVID-19 vaccine doses plus booster shot, you may do the following advice to enhance your protection against the virus spread:

  • Avoid sick individuals and take precautions when living with sick people.
  • Wear your masks properly indoors and outdoors.
  • Practice social distancing. Stay about six feet away from anyone if you can.
  • Scrub your hands with water and soap repeatedly.
  • Bring your hand sanitizer and alcohol at all times.
  • Cover your sneeze or cough with a paper towel, then throw them in the bin.
  • If you are smoking, quit. 
  • Refrain from touching your face, specifically your nose, mouth, and eyes, as much as possible.
  • Disinfect frequently your used objects or any used surfaces. 

Manage COPD Caused by COVID-19

On the other hand, you can help manage your COPD caused by COVID through the following practices:

  • Continue taking your prescribed medications, and do not adjust your treatment plan without prior consultation with your doctor. 
  • Avoid smoking tobacco and other air pollutants indoors and outdoors. 
  • Ensure you have at least a month’s worth of prescription medicines.
  • Exercise as often as specified by your healthcare provider. 
  • Learn healthy and proper ways of coping with stress.

elderly man with covid talking to a doctor

Frequently Asked Questions

Can COVID cause you to get COPD?

If you have wondered about the question, “does covid cause COPD,” the answer is there is no conclusive evidence that suggests COVID causes COPD. Severe COVID-19 can damage lung airways. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is associated with an inflated risk of mortality and morbidity in community-acquired pneumonia (CAP).

COVID-19 can worsen various health conditions, such as interstitial lung disease,  acute respiratory distress syndrome ARDS, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

What type of lung damage is caused by COVID?

COVID-19 causes lung damage, making it harder for patients to sustain lung function. It includes, but is not limited to, pneumonia, sepsis, acute respiratory failure, and bronchitis.

  • Pneumonia
  • This health condition affects both lungs, resulting in shortness of breath, consistent coughs, and other symptoms. It also limits your ability to achieve an optimal oxygen level.

  • Sepsis
  • Sepsis happens when a health condition reaches and spreads through the bloodstream, causing tissue wounds everywhere it goes. Sepsis survivors often live with damaged lungs and other organs. 

  • Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
  • In some COVID-19 cases, ARDS happens after progressive pneumonia. Patients suffering from ARDS may require oxygen and a ventilator to help them breathe effectively. While ARDS can be lethal, ARDS and COVID-19 survivors may have permanently scarred lungs. 

  • Bronchitis
  • COVID-related bronchitis makes sputum narrow your airways, making breathing harder. It results in chest congestion and severe coughing. Additionally, bronchitis patients may experience respiratory ailments for months after the initial infection.

    Can COPD be mistaken for COVID?

    Yes. This is because COPD and COVID-19 target an individual’s respiratory system. However, the most common respiratory lung condition mistaken for COPD is asthma, as these two share similar manifestations.

    COVID-19 has polymorphic symptoms. Although both COVID-19 and COPD can damage your body in different ways, COVID-19 generally targets your respiratory system, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, trouble breathing, and cough. 

    How do you know if COVID is in your lungs?

    Aside from visiting your physician or any healthcare provider for diagnosis, you may look for the signs yourself. Coronavirus can affect your upper respiratory system with flu-like symptoms. 

    Additionally, it can affect your lower respiratory system, specifically your airways and lungs. The common symptoms of coronavirus may include wheezing when exhaling, severe cough that produces mucus, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

    If COVID-19 runs deep into your lungs, it can provoke pneumonia. It is a concern for older patients because they already have reduced lung capacity and weakened immune systems. It may also demand longer recovery time than younger patients.


    If you get infected with COVID-19 on top of COPD, it can worsen your already complicated respiratory disorder. This is why it is crucial for individuals diagnosed with COPD and other chronic lung illnesses to be vaccinated and boosted as soon as they are eligible. 

    In addition, you must continue to practice various safety precautions established by the World Health Organization (WHO). This includes wearing masks, frequent handwashing, and social distancing.

    We hope you got everything you wish to know about the ultimate question: “how can COVID cause COPD” to help ensure the best possible outcome in your overall health!


    Written by Andy Flynn

     Andy Flynn - co-founder sprylyfe and arya biomed

    Andy Flynn is the founder of Sprylyfe, the leading retailer of portable oxygen concentrators in the United States. He also co-founded ARYA BioMed.

    Get to know him on LinkedIn.

    Medically Reviewed By Aaron Gravely, M.D.

     Aaron Gravely MD, researcher, medical doctor

    Aaron L. Gravely, M.D. is a professional medical writer and physician-scientist with over 8 years of experience in healthcare and medical research.

    Get to know him on LinkedIn or read his published works.

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