But there may be consequences. The potential harms from using steroids in a hospital include an increased risk of bacterial or fungal infections, hyperglycemia, acquired muscle weakness and gastrointestinal bleeding. For people with milder cases of COVID, taking steroids could mean increasing their risks with little potential benefit. Taking steroids long-term also carries other risks, including predisposition to infection and developing osteoporosis, cataracts and glaucoma.
So, to take steroids as a potential preventive measure against COVID could come with significant potential risk to otherwise healthy people. Still, the benefits of steroids for treating critically ill COVID patients appear to outweigh the harms. Part of the challenge in treating critically ill patients with steroids is determining the dose and timing of the medication. So, in that patient population, the benefit outweighs the risk, but the risk is not zero.
The risk profile increases with higher doses. So, the recommendation would be to start with the relatively low doses that have been studied. The WHO recommends low doses for days. Another trial involved dexamethasone , the steroid the president was given.
Others studied methylprednisolone , though they were smaller and provided less data. The trials all point in a similar direction, suggesting the anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid activity is the important feature and not the specific steroid.
Based on the studies to date, hospitalized patients with COVID pneumonia and requiring oxygen should be started on a low-dose course of steroids. Physicians should think of steroids at low doses as the standard of care for critically ill patients with COVID pneumonia. National Institutes of Health have also recommended use of steroids for hospitalized people who need extra oxygen or are on ventilators. Scientists and journalists share a core belief in questioning, observing and verifying to reach the truth.
Science News reports on crucial research and discovery across science disciplines. We need your financial support to make it happen — every contribution makes a difference. Skip to content. Science News Needs You Support nonprofit journalism. By Tina Hesman Saey September 2, at pm. Trustworthy journalism comes at a price. COVID is still here. What does that mean for kids? By Tina Hesman Saey August 9, From the Nature Index Paid Content.
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