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Anemia and COVID-19: What's the Connection?

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner


Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Nov 21, 2022

Anemia and COVID-19: What's the Connection?

From the very beginning, we have understood that certain underlying conditions increases your chances to have a severe type of COVID-19. These comorbidities include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and respiratory ailments, like uncontrolled asthma. But what about anemia, one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world? Does it increase your risk for severe COVID? Learn more about the connection between anemia and COVID-19 here. 

Filipinos and Anemia

A 2018 report said that thousands of Filipinos experience dizziness, pallor (being pale), and tiredness. Experts say these are the telltale signs of anemia, a condition where the patient lacks healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. 

There are many forms of anemia, and treatment usually depends on the cause. For instance, if you have iron-deficiency anemia, the doctor might ask you to make dietary changes or take iron supplements. 

Given that many Filipinos potentially experience anemia without being aware of it, determining the connection between anemia and COVID-19 would be helpful. 

What Studies Say About Anemia and COVID-19

Currently, there are only a few studies about anemia and COVID-19. But they appear to show that being anemic might increase your risk for severe symptoms of COVID-19. 

Anemia Increases Risk for Severe COVID³

From December of 2019 to March of 2021, Chinese researchers analyzed the condition of 222 COVID-19 patients, 79 of whom had anemia. The study highlighted that:

  • Patients with anemia had a severe inflammatory response. The more severe the anemia was, the greater the inflammatory response. 
  • Patients with anemia are older and have severe organ injuries. Such conditions include like poor lung function, serious heart muscle injury, and dysfunctional kidneys. 
  • Anemia is also an independent risk factor associated with severe COVID-19.
  • Why Anemia Increases Risk for Severe COVID-19⁴

    Another report, which also concluded that having anemia might mean developing a severe infection, tried to explain the possible reasons. 

    Firstly, the researchers pointed out that low levels of red blood cells mean the oxygen delivery system is not optimal. When organs don’t receive enough oxygen, they malfunction. And of course, multiple organ dysfunction—particularly lung dysfunction, also affects severity of COVID-19. 

    The researchers also explained that COVID-19 can worsen the state of the patient’s anemia because the virus interacts with hemoglobin molecules, the protein in the red blood cells. 

    Anemia and COVID-19: The Death Rates⁵

    One report mentioned that anemia was independently associated with increased odds of all-cause mortality in hospitalized patients with COVID-19. 

    In their study, they noticed that anemia increases the risk of death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients from any cause. 

    What To Do If You Suspect Anemia

    In the US Center For Disease Control’s list of underlying conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID, they mentioned two forms of anemia: sickle cell disease and thalassemia6. If you have these forms of anemia, talk to your doctor about your treatment and how you can reduce your risk of getting a severe infection. 

    Consult your doctor if you suspect yourself of having anemia. Common symptoms include: 

    • Fatigue and weakness
    • Pallor 
    • Shortness of breath
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Irregular heartbeats 
    • Cold hands and feet
    • Chest pain

    After some tests, the doctor will recommend an appropriate treatment plan. Afterall, getting the anemia under control would definitely help whether you contract COVID-19 or not. 

    Key Takeaways


    Few studies that talk about anemia and COVID-19 noted that anemia increases the risk of having severe SARS-CoV-2 infection. One study even noted that anemia is associated with the all-cause death rate among hospitalized patients with COVID. The US CDC also said that having sickle cell disease and thalassemia, increase the risk for severe COVID-19. 
    If you have or suspect anemia, it’s best to consult your doctor to receive the appropriate treatment.

    Learn more about Coronavirus here

    Disclaimer

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner


    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Nov 21, 2022

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