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CHICAGO — People with asthma are at greater risk for complications from COVID-19. And, as a troubling new study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism indicates, it may be the medications they take will make it worse.

The drugs are called Glucocorticoid, steroid hormones, and are usually taken for asthma and allergies.

Dr. Raghu Mirmira is with the University of Chicago. He said steroid inhalers used to help people breathe may ultimately make it more difficult to breathe with the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Quite a few people are on steroids for a variety of inflammatory disorders, so that’s a pretty sizable population,” he said. “The people who are on the drugs for a long period of time probably have a bit of immune suppression. So their ability to fight off isn’t quite as good.”

That means when the virus takes hold, patients could plummet.

“When on these drugs for a long time, what they do is suppress the ability of your own body to produce enough of that drug, the glucocotrol, to overcome the stress of infections,” Mirmira said. “So when not taking enough of medication when they are on them, they are at risk for not being able to fight off infection quite as well. And that`s a concern.:

The best advice is to avoid the virus altogether by practicing good hygiene, like hand washing and safe distancing. Because while the medications may complicate a COVID-19 diagnosis, they are necessary to avoid complications from asthma and other conditions.

“In terms of the drug itself, generally people who are on it are on it because they need it for whatever underlying disorder that they have,” Mirmira said. “So first off, we don’t recommend people stop medication. That’s a no-no. We do recognize it could put you at higher risk for getting the infection, but again the most important thing that people can do is what all health experts are saying. And that is avoid contact with people who might be ill. Stay at home and if there is a change in your health call your doctor.”