Image of older adult coughing into hand as companion looks pats his back

Measurable changes in lung function found after mild COVID-19 infection may indicate that clinicians should brace for a wave of chronic lung disease, experts say.

The findings, from Danish researchers, showed a small but significant drop in certain measures of lung function and capacity among nonhospitalized patients who had recovered from asymptomatic and mild disease.

“These results suggest that even mild COVID-19 may adversely affect the lungs in a sample of relatively healthy individuals from the general population,” reported lead author Katrine K. Iversen of Copenhagen University Hospital and colleagues.

Damage to lung function following a bout with COVID-19 has been found in other short- and long-term studies as well, the authors noted. With this in mind, clinicians may do well to anticipate a possible “second global pandemic” of chronic respiratory problems, one outside expert said, as reported by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, or CIDRAP. 

The study was published Jan. 3 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.