Health

Allergy sufferers have nearly 40% lower risk of COVID-19 infection, study says

A new British study shows that people with allergic diseases have a lower risk of contracting COVID-19.

The research, from Queen Mary University of London, was published Thursday in the journal Thorax.

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Analyzing data from more than 16,000 adults between May 1, 2020 and February 5, 2021, the authors asked participants to provide information about their age, family circumstances, occupation, lifestyle, weight, height, long-term medical conditions, medication use, and vaccination. Status, diet, and supplement intake when enrolled in the study in an online questionnaire.

Monthly follow-up questionnaires captured the COVID-19 incident and the researchers used logistic regression models to estimate associations between potential risk factors and odds of contracting COVID-19.

woman sneezing
(credit: iStock)

15,227 people—the majority of whom were women and about 95% of whom identified their ethnicity as being white—filled out at least one follow-up questionnaire and 14,348 people completed the final questionnaire. The average age of the participants was 59.

In total, 446 cases of coronavirus have been registered, or approximately 3% of the participants. 32 people were hospitalized.

Those with atopic conditions such as eczema and those with hay fever or rhinitis had a 23% lower risk of developing the disease.

Including people with asthma, there was a 38% lower risk of infection – even after accounting for steroid inhaler use.

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Taking immunosuppressants was also associated with a 53% lower odds of infection, although the authors note that this statistic may reflect greater protection from infection by these patients.

In contrast to previous studies, the researchers found that advanced age, male gender, and other underlying conditions were not associated with an increased risk of infection.

Instead, people of British Asian and Asian descent, family overcrowding, indoor social contact with other families, doing a frontline job excluding health and social care and increased BMI or obesity were independently associated with increased risk.

Asian or British Asian adults had twice the risk of a positive test compared to white adults in the UK, and the more people sharing a household, and the more visits to indoor public spaces, the higher the odds of contracting COVID-19.

The researchers said the study shows there is limited overlap between risk factors for developing COVID-19 and those for ICU admission and death, as reported in the hospital cohort.

They also note that the study is observational and cannot prove a cause.

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Other limitations include that there was no oversight of COVID-19 swab testing and reliance on test results usually driven by symptoms – potentially missing an asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection.

In addition, ethnic minorities were underrepresented in the study.

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