Study: Lung Function Unaffected After COVID-19 Infection in Young Adults

Young adults previously infected with COVID-19 do not appear to have affected lung function, according to research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress. The investigators said that even patients with asthma showed no statistically significant deterioration in lung function, although there was a trend toward slightly lower measurements for the amount of air they could exhale forcibly in 1 second (FEV1).

“The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about if and how the lung is affected after clearance of the coronavirus infection, especially in young people from the general population with less severe disease,” said Ida Mogensen, MD, in a press release. “Until now, this has not been known.”

The investigators gathered data from 661 young adults (average age 22 years) who were part of a larger study that enrolled children born between 1994 and 1996. Pre-pandemic clinical examinations were conducted between 2016 and 2019, whereas examinations at the COVID-19 follow-up took place between October 2020 and May 2021. The data collected included measurements of lung function, inflammation, and white blood cells called eosinophils.

Twenty-seven percent of the 661 participants had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, indicating a prior infection. The investigators measured FEV1, forced vital capacity (FVC)—the volume of air in the lungs that can be exhaled after a taking the deepest breath possible—and FEV1/FVC ratio, which is an indicator of narrowed airways. They calculated the changes in lung function between the period before infection and after, and compared that percentage change to the participants who had not been infected.

“Our analysis showed similar lung function irrespective of COVID-19 history,” Mogensen said in the release. “When we included 123 participants with asthma in the analysis, the 24% who had had COVID-19 tended towards having a slightly lower lung function, but this was not statistically significant.”

According to the study, there was no difference in rates of eosinophils, indicators of inflammation, allergy responses, or use of inhaled corticosteroids among participants who had had COVID-19.

“These results are reassuring for young adults. However, we will continue to analyse data from more people,” Mogensen said in the release. “In particular, we want to look more closely at people with asthma as the group in this study was fairly small. We are also curious as to whether the length of time after the infection is important, as well as the severity of disease and symptoms.”


Lung function appears to be unaffected after COVID-19 infection in young adults [news release]. EurekAlert; September 6, 2021. Accessed September 7, 2021.