This Could Triple Your Risk of Dying from Coronavirus, Experts Say

New research shows this common COVID treatment could save many patients—and kill others.

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COVID-19 has the potential to become fatal for many individuals who get infected by the virus—particularly those with pre-existing conditions. However, recent research suggests that levels of a specific protein in a person's blood could let doctors know if a common treatment for coronavirus symptoms could help them—or be deadly. In a new study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, found that high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP)—an indication of inflammation—in a person's blood increased the likelihood that steroid treatment would be a beneficial part of their recovery plan.

"We found that in patients with high levels of inflammation, namely a CRP level greater than 20, steroids were associated with a 75 percent reduction in the risk of going on mechanical ventilation or dying," explained Marla Keller, MD, the study's lead author.

young asian man in hospital with oxygen mask for coronavirus
Shutterstock/Pordee_Aomboon

However, among patients with levels of CRP under 10, "steroid use was associated with an almost 200 percent increased risk of going on mechanical ventilation or death," said Keller.

This research may prove fruitful for hospitalized coronavirus patients who might be given steroids to the ultimate detriment of their health. Keller's team noted that a common blood test can easily identify those who might benefit from steroid treatment and those for whom it would likely prove deadly.

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Steroids aren't the only potentially lifesaving medical interventions for coronavirus that have come under scrutiny in recent months, however. While ventilators have been used throughout the pandemic to provide treatment to critically ill patients with reduced lung function, a June 2020 analysis of research published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene suggests that using greater restraint in prescribing ventilator treatment—including waiting until patients are struggling to breathe to use them instead of basing their use on oxygen levels alone—could actually save more lives. And if you're wondering what might be a tip-off that your COVID case is serious, check out the 4 Coronavirus Symptoms Most Likely to Be Deadly.

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