CLEVELAND (WJW) – It’s the first clinical study ever to suggest that steroid nasal sprays could further protect COVID-19 patients.

“COVID-19 starts with the nose. That’s how it started,” said Dr. Joe Zein, a pulmonologist with the Cleveland Clinic.

According to Zein, patients who regularly use steroids are less likely to develop severe infection, reducing the chance of ending up in the hospital, ICU, or dying by 20 to 25%.

“For the virus to infect cells in the nose and the lungs, it has to attach to a receptor or it has to open a door, per say. The steroids will lower those numbers of doors available to infect the cells,” said Zein.

The study was conducted from the beginning of the pandemic until March of this year. It looked at over 70,000 COVID-19 patients at the Cleveland Clinic health system.

“The nose is probably the most important factor of COVID-19.  More likely than not, the infection starts with the nose,” added Zein.

According to Dr. Zein, the research doesn’t suggest the sprays as a COVID-19 treatment and further findings are needed to confirm the results.

However, Dr. Zein says the study is important because it further highlights the role that the nose plays in COVID-19 management.

“It is very important to cover the nose, and if someone doesn’t cover their nose, they really didn’t do anything.  It would be like not wearing a mask if they don’t cover the nose,” said Zein.