If You've Had This Common Illness, You're More Likely to Die From COVID

A prior case of this illness may make you more likely to die from the coronavirus.

Many of us fall sick with some kind of illness every year, whether it be a cold, a sinus infection, or the flu. While most of these illnesses are manageable and easy to forget recovering from, you may want to take a look back at your medical history amid the COVID pandemic because it can be a predictor of how your body will handle the virus. A new Harvard study has found that having a prior case of one particularly common illness could put you at an increased risk of dying from COVID. Read on to find out if you're at risk, and for more on severe coronavirus cases, If You've Done This, You're Twice as Likely to Develop Severe COVID.

You're more at risk of dying from COVID if you've had pneumonia before.

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Harvard researchers recently discovered that a prior case of pneumonia can be a strong indicator that you'll have a more severe—or even deadly—case if infected with COVID. In their new study, published in the journal NPJ Digital Medicine on Feb. 4, they pulled data from the medical records of nearly 17,000 COVID patients. Their research showed that after age, pneumonia was the second-greatest risk factor for death from COVID. Out of those who died from COVID, nearly 49 percent had a history of pneumonia.

"A history of pneumonia, which is rarely asked in typical epidemiology studies, was one of the most important risk factors for predicting COVID-19 mortality," the researchers stated in their study. And for more ways to reduce your risk, find out why These 3 Vitamins Could Save You From Severe COVID, Study Finds.

Pneumonia is very common in the United States.

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Pneumonia is a very common illness in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1.3 million Americans were diagnosed with pneumonia in 2017. The agency says that while most people who come down with pneumonia in the country are adults, this lung infection can affect people of all ages. And for more coronavirus concerns, know that Dr. Fauci Just Issued This New Chilling Warning About COVID.

You could have had pneumonia and not known it.

A man in a medical mask in the park with his hand on his head due to a headache.
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According to Health, many people never even realize they have had a case of pneumonia—especially if they had a mild case. Zachary Strasser, MD, one of the study authors and a Harvard postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts General, told Bloomberg News that it's even common for cases of chronic pneumonia to go undiagnosed.

According to the American Lung Association, this may be due to the fact that "pneumonia can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are so variable, and are often very similar to those seen in a cold or influenza." The symptoms of pneumonia include cough, fever, shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, and confusion. And for more up-to-date COVID news, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Other COVID risk factors are also often associated with pneumonia.

senior man holding his head in pain after getting bad news from a doctor at the hospital during COVID-19 pandemic.
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The CDC has created a list of medical conditions that put you at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID, but pneumonia is not one of them. However, as the Harvard researchers note, a previous pneumonia case could actually be an indicator of an underlying condition that is included in the list of risk factors.

In fact, the CDC says you are more likely to get pneumonia if you smoke or have underlying medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease. And smoking, diabetes, and heart disease are all listed by the CDC as conditions that put you at increased risk of severe COVID. And for more from this agency, find out why The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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