Doctors: Steroids show promise as COVID-19 treatment, but when you take them is key to increasing survival

Use of steroids to treat COVID-19

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Local health experts tell us steroids like dexamethasone continue to show promise in treating the sickest of COVID-19 patients, even decreasing the likelihood of death but doctors also say not everyone should use steroids.

Doctors Nathan Erdmann, MD/PhD and Michael Saag, MD with UAB Medicine-Infectious Diseases stress steroids are not a cure for COVID and can even cause more harm if used at the wrong time.

Steroids are cheap and accessible but that doesn’t mean everyone should run out and get them.

Dr. Erdmann said there are two stages of COVID-19. The early-stage presents symptoms. Then, some get well or they get worse which leads to the second phase- when breathing issues set in and hospitalization may be needed.

Dr. Edmann explained steroids work best in the later phase.

“If you think about those two phases of illness if you shut down the body’s immune system ability to target the virus directly. You allow that virus to go on which could lead to more complications on the backside,” he said.

As they have mastered the timing of drugs administering, Dr. Saag said the treatment of COVID has gotten more effective.

“It’s that we have any new treatments it’s that we’re getting better at knowing how to use them and how to manage people, especially in the hospital,” said Dr. Saag.

“Targeting the virus directly the earlier you are in the illness is likely to be a benefit. We just need the drug that can accomplish that task in a safe, effective manner and we just don’t have it yet,” said Erdmann.

Both doctors say a treatment like Tamiflu is needed to treat those with COVID who are not sick enough to be hospitalized.

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