If you get coronavirus (COVID-19) and have asthma

What to do if you have asthma and get coronavirus symptoms or a positive test result

Health advice > Asthma triggers > Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Find out about next steps if you have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, what your risk is, and why you should continue with your usual asthma medicines.

On this page:

Do I have symptoms of COVID-19?

The NHS list the main symptoms of COVID-19 as:

  • 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 three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • loss of smell or taste, or changes to your normal sense of smell or taste.

Studies suggest that other symptoms may also be a sign of COVID-19, including:

  • sore throat
  • headache
  • sneezing
  • runny nose.

Tests for coronavirus symptoms

If you have any of the main symptoms - high temperature, cough or lack of taste and smell - you should self-isolate and get a free PCR test. You can have a PCR test delivered to your home or book an appointment at a walk-in or drive-through test site. It’s important you don’t go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

If you have symptoms, you need to do a PCR test instead of a lateral flow test.

If you don’t have symptoms, but test positive using a lateral flow test, you no longer need to confirm the result with a PCR test.

This is because, due to high rates of coronavirus in the community, if you test positive with a lateral flow test it’s highly likely that you have the virus. You need to record your result and self-isolate immediately. 

Is it COVID-19 or an asthma attack? 

COVID-19 can cause symptoms, like breathlessness and coughing, similar to asthma. But a high temperature, tiredness, and changes in taste or smell do not usually happen with an asthma attack. These symptoms are more likely to be due to COVID-19 infection.

 

Your reliever inhaler cannot help COVID-19 symptoms

The reliever inhaler you use for your asthma symptoms may not help with similar symptoms, like breathlessness and coughing, caused by COVID-19.

If you’re not sure if it’s your asthma getting worse or your coronavirus symptoms getting worse, use your reliever and spacer anyway and call your GP or 111 for advice.

I’ve tested positive for COVID-19 – what now?

If you’ve tested positive with a lateral flow, or had PCR test results back confirming that your symptoms are COVID-19, you may be wondering how it’s going to affect your asthma and what you should do now.

Here we list five key things you need to do:

1. Stay at home (self-isolate)

You will need to self-isolate for 10 full days from the day symptoms started, or, if you don’t have symptoms, from the day you had your test.

This means staying at home and keeping a distance from anyone else in your household where possible.

It may be possible for you to end self-isolation before 10 full days. You can do this only if you've had two negative lateral flow tests 24 hours apart, and do not have a temperature.

  • In England you can stop self-isolating on day six if you've had two negative lateral flow tests on days five and six. You should take the first one no earlier than day five.
  • In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland you can stop self-isolating on day seven if you've had two negative lateral flow tests, taken on days six and seven. You should take the first one no earlier than day six.

Find out more about when and how to self-isolate

There are rules for members of your household, and your close contacts too. These vary depending on where you live, and whether your close contacts have been double vaccinated.

The NHS has more information about what to do, in different parts of the UK, if someone in your household tests positive for coronavirus. If you’re not sure about what you need to do, you can call the NHS coronavirus helpline on 119.

Find out about the help and support you can get while self-isolating.

2. Manage your coronavirus symptoms 

Most people who get coronavirus can manage their symptoms at home by getting lots of rest, drinking lots of fluids, and taking paracetamol.  

The NHS has advice on how to manage cough, fever and breathlessness and when to call for help.

If you live alone, ask someone to check up on you every day to see how you are. They can call you or talk through a closed doorway or window. But they cannot come into your home.

Get advice from your GP or call 111 if: 

COVID-19 is making you feel more unwell or more breathless, or if your symptoms have gone on longer than four weeks.

3. Keep taking your usual asthma medicines 

“Carry on taking all your asthma inhalers and medicines as you normally would,” says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP. “They will help protect you from asthma symptoms flaring up and are perfectly safe if you have COVID-19.”

  • Wash your hands before using your inhalers or taking medicines.
  • Wash equipment like spacers, peak flow meters, mouthpieces or masks more regularly. Find out how to clean your inhalers and spacers.
  • Do not share your inhalers and devices with anyone else.

Treatments for severe asthma 

If you’re being treated with biologics for severe asthma, it’s safe to continue with these too, unless advised by your specialist to postpone treatment while you are ill.

Ask your specialist about options to help you access treatments outside of hospital, such as pre-filled syringes to use at home.

If you use a nebuliser at home, you can continue to use this safely. It will not increase the spread of the virus.

4. Follow your asthma action plan 

Your asthma action plan is an important part of managing your asthma well every day.

When you’re out of your usual routine for any reason, including when you’re unwell, your action plan helps you keep track of the usual asthma medicines you need to take every day, and the actions you need to take if your asthma symptoms get worse, or you have an asthma attack.

Always make sure you’re using your most up to date plan. Talk to your GP or asthma nurse if you’re not sure. 

If you have a peak flow meter, monitoring your peak flow alongside any symptoms, can be a helpful way to keep an eye on your asthma too.

5. Act quickly if your asthma symptoms get worse

If your asthma symptoms get worse:

Call 999 if:

your reliever isn't helping or you're struggling to breathe. Let them know you have coronavirus and are having an asthma attack.

COVID-19 and asthma – what’s the risk? 

Studies suggest that the majority of people with asthma may be at slightly higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 than the general population.

However, the current guidance is based on evidence that shows the risk for people with asthma is significantly less than other conditions, which means that most people with asthma are not included in the high-risk group.

If you’ve had both your COVID-19 vaccines, your risk of serious illness from coronavirus, and being hospitalised, is likely to be low.

A booster jab tops up your protection, and lowers your risk from new variants like Omicron, so it’s important to get your booster jab too.  

Will COVID-19 make your asthma worse? 

You could feel worse with coronavirus because you already have trouble breathing.

However, studies do not suggest an increased risk of an asthma attack when you have COVID-19. A lot depends on the type of asthma you have, and how well controlled it is.

You may be more at risk if:

  • you don’t take your preventer medicines every day as prescribed
  • your asthma is uncontrolled
  • you have other conditions alongside your asthma, such as heart disease or diabetes
  • you smoke
  • you’re very overweight (obese)
  • you’re older
  • you have non-allergic asthma.

What about new variants like Omicron?

Researchers are conducting studies to find out more about Omicron. At the moment, the World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no indication that Omicron causes more severe coronavirus symptoms, compared to other variants like Delta, or any increased risk to people in terms of hospitalisations and severe coronavirus symptoms.

There are some signs that it could be spread more easily though.  So, it’s important to do everything you can to reduce your risk.

What COVID-19 treatments are there?

There are currently two treatments available to treat COVID-19. These are available to people aged 12 and over who have had a positive PCR test for COVID and are most at risk of serious illness from the virus.

The NHS will confirm whether or not you’re eligible to be assessed for these treatments.

If you are eligible you should be sent a PCR test to keep at home. This is so you can use it as soon as possible after developing typical COVID symptoms. If the result is positive, the NHS will then contact you about accessing treatments. If you don't hear within 24 hours, call your GP or specialist, or 111.

Treatments are best started as soon as possible after a positive PCR test, even if your symptoms are mild.

If you have tested positive using a lateral flow test, you still need to confirm the result with a PCR test in order to be assessed for treatments.

 

Your GP does not prescribe COVID-19 treatments

You’ll be assessed by your local CMDU (COVID-19 Medicines Delivery Unit), not your GP or specialist. The CMDU will prescribe treatment.

 

The two treatments are sotrovimab (Xevudy) and molnupiravir (Lagevrio).

Sotrovimab (Xevudy)

Xevudy is a neutralising monoclonal antibody treatment (nMAB). If you test positive with coronavirus, you'll usually be offered this treatment first. 

Clinical trials have found that a single dose reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death by 79% in high-risk adults with symptomatic infection.

Sotrovimab is given through a drip in the arm (as in infusion). You’ll need to go to a local hospital or health centre to access treatment.

Find out more about sotrovimab

Molnupiravir (Lagevrio)

Molnupiravir is an antiviral treatment. It works by keeping coronavirus levels low in the body, reducing the risk of severe illness.

Molnupiravir is taken as a capsule to swallow. If you're eligible for this treatment, the capsules can be delivered to your home.

The tablet should not be used as a substitute for the coronavirus vaccine or booster.

Find out more about molnupiravir

Accessing antiviral treatments when you’re not high risk

If you are not eligible for treatments because you don’t fall into the high-risk group, you may also be able to access treatment with the antiviral molnupiravir through the Panoramic Study.

This is a UK-wide clinical study open to volunteers who:

  • have had a positive PCR test
  • feel unwell with symptoms that started in the last five days
  • are aged 50 or over, or 18-49 with an underlying health condition.

Find out more and sign up for the PANORAMIC trial.

Recovering from COVID-19 

It can sometimes take people a while to recover from COVID-19 infections, even if they have been mild. If you have extreme tiredness, breathlessness, or a cough that just doesn’t seem to be settling as you would usually expect, you may have long COVID.

Talk to your nurse, GP, or hospital specialist if you think you may have long COVID or if your coronavirus symptoms aren’t going away. Your healthcare professional can assess what care you need, which may depend on whether you were treated in hospital or at home.

You can find out more about long COVID on the BLF website.

Long COVID and your asthma 

When you’re recovering from COVID-19, it is important that you’re able to recognise the difference between ongoing coronavirus symptoms and any asthma symptoms flaring up.  

Your asthma is more likely to:

It is important that you carry on treating any asthma symptoms as usual. Stick to all your usual prescribed asthma medicines.

If your asthma symptoms are getting worse, follow your written asthma action plan and call your GP or 111 for advice. Call 999 if you are struggling to breathe and your reliever isn’t helping.

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

  

You can get advice and support about asthma and COVID-19 by calling a respiratory nurse specialist on our Helpline, 0300 222 5800 (9am-5pm; Monday-Friday). Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.

 

Last updated on: Tuesday 18 January 2022

 

Help us continue the fight for people with asthma against COVID-19.

Generous donations from people like you, mean our charity Helpline and website can continue being there for people with asthma when they need us most!

The ongoing fight against COVID-19 means people with asthma will continue to need the help and support that your donations allow us to provide.

To help change the lives of people with asthma this year and beyond, please donate today or set up a monthly gift, so we know we can rely on your ongoing support.

 

We’re committed to providing free up-to-date expert asthma information.

During 2020 our health advice was viewed 13,891,860 times.

Your support helps us to give people with asthma the knowledge they need to live well and protect themselves from asthma attacks.

If you find our health advice useful, please consider making a small donation today.

DONATE NOW

Did you find this information helpful?

Step 2

Would you use our information again or recommend it to a friend?
Please choose the option that best describes you