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 normal sense of smell or taste.

Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms. If you or anyone you live with has any of the above, you should self-isolate. 

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

  • 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 you have asthma, and if your asthma symptoms are getting worse.
  • You should then arrange to have a test to see if you have coronavirus. Find out how to get a coronavirus test.
  • Tell people you have come into contact with in the past 48 hours that you have coronavirus symptoms. If you test positive, you will receive a text, email or phone call asking you to log into the NHS Test and Trace service website, where you can give information about who you have recently come into close contact with.
  • 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 you get a 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.
  • 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.

If you think you may have coronavirus, stay at home and don't go to a doctor's surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

Should I stop taking my asthma medicines?

No. These are safe to continue taking if you have coronavirus and are an essential part of your healthcare.

If you are prescribed oral steroids like prednisolone for your asthma symptoms, you should take them as prescribed. Experts agree they are safe for you to take if you have coronavirus and crucial if you have a flare up of asthma symptoms.

 Will my inhaler help with COVID-19 symptoms?

Bear in mind that your reliever inhaler helps with symptoms like breathlessness, coughing or chest tightness that are caused by asthma. They may not help these symptoms if they’re caused by COVID-19. This is because asthma and COVID-19 can cause similar symptoms, but for a different reason. 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 or tests positive

You should self-isolate for 14 days if:

  • you live with someone who has coronavirus symptoms or has tested positive
  • someone in your support bubble or extended household has symptoms or has tested positive.

If someone you have been in contact with recently tests positive, you will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace to let you know that you have come into close contact with someone with the virus. You will then be asked to stay at home for 14 days.

Anyone with symptoms should stay as far away from other members of their household as possible. It is especially important to stay away from anyone who is clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable.

Testing for coronavirus

You can ask for a test through the NHS website if you:

  • live in England and Wales and have coronavirus symptoms, whatever your age
  • live in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and are aged 5 or over, with coronavirus symptoms.

The test involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat. This can be done by you or by someone else.

Read about the different ways you can get tested for coronavirus.

NHS Test and Trace

The NHS Test and Trace service has launched, which means you’ll be contacted if you test positive for coronavirus.

Read more about the NHS Test and Trace Service in England.
In Scotland, there is a Test and Protect service.
Book a test in Northern Ireland.
Apply for a coronavirus test in Wales.

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. It is becoming clear that it can take people a while to recover from COVID-19 infections, even if they have been fairly mild.

Some people find they have trouble breathing that lasts for a while after a COVID-19 infection. And others find they are very tired for several weeks. You can find out more about this, and ways you can help your recovery, on the Post-COVID HUB.

The NHS Your Covid Recovery website also has information on managing the effects of COVID-19 if you already have asthma.

Are my symptoms due to asthma or my COVID-19 recovery?

If you have asthma and are recovering from COVID-19, it is important that you try to tell the difference between what symptoms are due to your asthma and what is part of your recovery from coronavirus.

If you need help working out the difference between asthma symptoms and your recovery from coronavirus, you should talk to your GP or asthma nurse.

Your asthma is more likely to:

If your asthma symptoms are getting worse, follow your written asthma action plan and get medical advice. It’s also important to monitor your peak flow.

It is important that you carry on treating any asthma symptoms as usual. If your asthma symptoms are getting worse, it can be a sign that an asthma attack is on the way. Don’t write off asthma symptoms as just related to your recovery from coronavirus. Talk to your nurse, GP or hospital specialist if you have post-COVID side effects, such as extreme tiredness, breathlessness or a cough that just doesn’t seem to be settling as you would usually expect.

Your healthcare professional can assess what care you need, which may depend on whether you were treated in hospital or at home.

Would you like to talk to someone?

Call our Post COVID helpline on 0300 222 5942, to talk to our team of experts about your concerns and to answer your questions.

Last updated on: Thursday 30 July

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