Are patients with COPD at a higher risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 and are they also more likely to experience a more severe course of COVID-19 illness?

03 Jun 2021

What the research says: 

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at increased risk for severe illness associated with viral infection, including COVID-19. Patients with COPD are also at increased risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 disease and death. There is no evidence to indicate that the medications prescribed for the management of COPD, including oral corticosteroids, increase the risk for COVID-19 infection or of severe COVID-19 disease.

What this means for your clinical practice:

  • Ensure patients with COPD are symptomatically well controlled
  • Encourage your patients with COPD to ensure they take their medications as prescribed and report any increase in respiratory symptoms promptly
  • Support your patients with COPD to follow National guidelines, including shielding, in order to minimise their risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.
  • When seeing patients face to face, follow National guidelines to minimise cross-infection

For additional information on the treatment of an acutely unwell person with COVID 19 in the primary care setting please see our guidance at:

With grateful thanks to Dr Dhiraj Agarwal (KEM Hospital Research Centre Pune, Pune, India) for and on behalf of the IPCRG practice driven answers review group.

Useful links and supporting references:

Rabbani G, et al. Pre-existing COPD is associated with an increased risk of mortality and severity in COVID-19: a rapid systematic review and meta-analysis. Exp Rev Respir Med 2021;15:705-716

Gerayeli FV, et al. COPD and the risk of poor outcomes in COVID-19: A systematic review and meta-analysis. EClinicalMedicine 2021;33:100789. Available at: Accessed May 2021

Resource information

Respiratory conditions
  • COPD
  • COVID-19
Respiratory topics
  • Transmission
Type of resource
IPCRG COVID-19 and respiratory Q&A