If you get COVID-19 and have asthma

What to do if you have asthma and get coronavirus symptoms

The coronavirus outbreak is a rapidly developing situation and the most up-to-date information for people in the UK can be found on the NHS website.

Symptoms of COVID-19

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • loss of, or change in, your usual sense of smell (known as anosmia). This can also affect your sense of taste.

Testing

Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus in the UK that is over the age of 5 is now eligible for a test. If you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you can ask for a coronavirus test through the NHS website. You may have the choice of being sent a home testing kit or driving to a regional testing site.

You need to have the test in the first 5 days of having symptoms. It's best to ask for the test in the first 3 days of being ill, as it may take a day or two to arrange.

Please note that there is very high demand for tests at the moment. People in hospital and essential workers, including NHS and social care staff, are getting priority for tests over the general public.

Check if you are an essential worker.

If you’re an essential worker in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can apply for priority testing through GOV.UK. You can also apply for priority testing if you have symptoms of coronavirus and live with an essential worker.

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 and you have asthma:

  • You need to stay at home. Don’t go to places like a doctor’s surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
  • Use the 111 coronavirus service to get advice about what to do next. Only call 111 if you can’t get help online.
  • Tell them that you have asthma, and if your asthma symptoms are getting worse.
  • If you get an asthma cough and are not sure whether your cough is a symptom of COVID-19 or related to your asthma, please speak to your GP, use the online 111 service or call 111 to ensure that you get the right care.
  • Keep following your asthma action plan to manage your asthma and so you know what to do if your asthma symptoms get worse. If you are having an asthma attack, call 999 for an ambulance as usual, and tell them you have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Carry on taking all your usual asthma medicines as normal.
  • If your COVID-19 symptoms don’t go away after 7 days, or get worse, or you are having difficulty breathing, call 111 for advice, or 999 if you need emergency care.

Bear in mind that your reliever inhaler helps with symptoms like breathlessness, coughing or chest tightness that are caused by asthma, and may not help these symptoms if caused by COVID-19. This is because both asthma and COVID-19 can cause similar symptoms but for a different reason, and your inhaler only works against symptoms caused by asthma. If in doubt, follow your asthma action plan and use your reliever to treat chest symptoms. If this isn’t working and you are having difficulty breathing, get medical help straight away.

If somebody you live with develops symptoms of COVID-19:

If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have coronavirus symptoms, then you must stay at home for at least 7 days.

However, all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14 days starts from the day the first person in the house became ill.

For anyone else in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for at least 7 days from when their symptoms appeared, even if that takes them past the end of the original 14 day isolation period.

After 7 days, if the first person to become ill feels better and no longer has a high temperature, they can return to their normal routine. You do not need to self-isolate if you only have a cough or anosmia after 7 days, as these symptoms can last for several weeks after the infection has gone. But if you still have a high temperature, keep self-isolating until your temperature returns to normal. 

If any other family members become unwell during the 14-day household-isolation period, they can also go back to their normal routine 7 days after they became ill, if they feel better and no longer have a high temperature.

Need an isolation note for your employer?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and have to self-isolate, you can get a note for your employer online.

You can also use this service if you live with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19.

If you feel well enough, and your employer agrees you can work from home, you don’t need an isolation note.

What to do if your asthma is getting worse

If your asthma is getting worse and you have symptoms of COVID-19, please use the 111 online service or call 111. Don’t go to your doctor’s surgery.

When you contact 111:

  • Let them know that you have asthma and that you’re getting asthma symptoms.
  • Explain how often you are using your reliever inhaler and if it’s not working completely or lasting for 4 hours.
  • Follow the instructions given to you by 111.
  • If your symptoms get worse quickly and you’re worried you are having an asthma attack, call 999 and let them know you may have coronavirus and are having an asthma attack. See our asthma attack advice for more information.

Recovering from COVID-19

We are still learning about COVID-19 and how it affects people in the short and long term. If you have had pneumonia as a result of COVID-19, like any pneumonia this can take some time to recover from.

From our understanding of COVID-19 so far, it seems to be taking some people a while to recover after the worst of their illness has passed. Some people find they have trouble breathing that lasts for a while after a COVID-19 infection.

It is important to try to tell the difference between ongoing chest symptoms such as breathlessness and cough that are part of your recovery from COVID-19, and symptoms due to your asthma. Speak with your doctor or nurse about this. Get advice urgently if you get worse at any point.

Last updated on: Monday 18th May

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