Dexamethasone – June 17, 2020


In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, some good news is emerging. The steroid – dexamethasone – is part of the world’s biggest trial testing of existing treatments to see if they can work on the coronavirus. Thus far, dexamethasone has cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators, and for those on oxygen, by 20%. So, for high-risk patients, dex appears to help. When the body’s immune system goes into overdrive trying to fight the virus – known as a “cytokine storm” – the steroid is useful in stopping some of the organ damage. The treatment? It’s for 10 days and costs only about £5 ($6.27) per patient!

Dexamethasone is normally used to treat many inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. It is also used in the treatment of high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), which can strike climbers on high peaks like Mt. Everest. In fact, dex is commonly carried on climbing expeditions to help climbers deal with serious complications of altitude sickness.

When it comes to COVID-19, do know, though, that dex does not appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus who do not need help with their breathing. Thus, you shouldn’t take it at home to self-treat.

#sciencewednesdays #summitssongsandscience

photo: U. Horodyskyj