Bronchiectasis and COVID-19

Posted on October 09, 2020   |   

This post was written by Jane Martin, BA, CRT

Individuals with chronic lung diseases have always needed to take special precautions to stay as healthy as possible and avoid situations that could harm their health. With the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this has become even more important as we look to safeguard our health and the health of those around us.

So, what about those of you with bronchiectasis? How can you manage it effectively in this pandemic?

What is bronchiectasis?

Before we go on, let’s have a quick review of bronchiectasis. Bronchiectasis is a chronic lung disease where the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs become widened, scarred, and inflamed.1 Cilia are tiny hair-like structures lining these airways. Their job is to move mucus up and out of the lungs. In bronchiectasis, the cilia don’t work as well as they should, and in some cases, they do not work at all. This can cause mucus to build up, triggering a chronic cough, encouraging germs to grow, and leading to more lung infections.

Some people who have bronchiectasis may have another chronic lung disease like COPD or asthma and may experience additional or stronger symptoms. For more on this, and other aspects of bronchiectasis, follow these links to our previous blog posts.

Now let’s talk about ways to stay well with bronchiectasis while living in the time of a respiratory pandemic.

How can I avoid getting COVID-19?

The most important thing is to minimize your chances of catching the virus in the first place by staying at home. 80% of COVID-19 transmission comes from people with no symptoms.2 So, even a person who feels well can spread the virus. If you are able, try to minimize your time visiting indoor spaces like crowded grocery stores, pharmacies, places of worship, restaurants and other gatherings.

Here are some tips.

  • Groceries and supplies:
    • Ask a friend, caregiver, or family member to help do the shopping for you.
    • Have items delivered to your home directly.
    • If you need to go out, see if your local grocery store or pharmacy offers no-contact curbside pickup. Ask also if they offer special shopping hours for people with chronic respiratory disease, compromised immune systems or older adults.
  • Medications:
    • Ask for delivery: Use mail order or ask your local pharmacy if they deliver.
    • If they don’t deliver: Ask for a 90-day refill so that you don’t have to visit the pharmacy monthly.
  • For any goods or services delivered to your home:
    • Make sure the deliverer uses hand sanitizer before entry, wears a mask, and keeps a safe distance from you.
    • After you open a package, wash your hands after discarding or recycling the packaging.

Follow this link for more complete information on avoiding contact with COVID-19.

Okay, I’m staying home. What now?

It’s more important than ever to manage your bronchiectasis and maintain your overall health.

  • Continue your daily routines with medications, airway clearance, etc. If you have any questions or concerns about your therapies or feel they aren’t working as well as they could, talk to your doctor about additional things you can do.
  • Ask your doctor about influenza vaccinations.
  • Keep up with regular exercise, good nutrition, and hydration and be sure to get enough sleep.
  • Do not delay getting emergency care for your bronchiectasis! It may be helpful to find bronchiectasis specialist near you.

Sometimes I have to go out. How do I do that safely?

  • Keep at least six feet of distance between you and other people.
  • Wear a face mask or covering.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers or wipes when you can’t wash your hands.
  • If you have a medical appointment, call from the parking lot and wait in your car until the office is ready for you. Many medical offices (including pet clinics) have systems in place to minimize contact.
  • Unless it is necessary, avoid using medications or doing airway clearance therapy while out. This will lessen the possibility of harmful droplets landing on your devices, then being inhaled as you use them.
  • Wash your hands when you get home—remember at least 20 seconds of washing.
  • Wash your face mask regularly---best to do after each outing

I’ve done my best to avoid getting the virus, but I think I still might have been exposed!

Call your doctor right away, ask what to watch for, and what to do if you see signs of the virus. Some common symptoms include fever, dry cough, tiredness, aches and pains, sore throat, headache, and loss of taste or smell. You can also ask to be tested.

Follow this link for more information about COVID-19 symptoms.

Continue to watch for our ongoing series on bronchiectasis and you!


  1. Weycker D, Hansen G, Seifer F. Prevalence and incidence of non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis among US adults in 2013. Chronic Respiratory Disease 2017;14(4): 377-384.
  2. Ing AJ, Cocks C, Green JP. COVID-19: in the footsteps of Ernest Shackleton. Thorax 2020;75:693-694.

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