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.

COVID-19 symptoms

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 three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a 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 and arrange a Covid-19 test.

I have COVID-19 symptoms and asthma. What should I do?

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you and everyone you live with will need to self-isolate and get a test as soon as possible. Don’t leave home, except to get tested. It’s important that you don’t go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

  • Use the online 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, this is an emergency. You must follow the steps on your action plan, including calling 999 if you need to. 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 seven days, 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.

How do I get a PCR COVID test?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate and request a PCR test online. If you can’t use the online service, call 119 to order or book a test by phone.

You can order a PCR test kit to be sent to your home or book an appointment at a walk-in or drive-through test site.

It’s important to get a COVID-19 test as soon as possible. In England and Northern Ireland, you need to get the test done within the first eight days of having symptoms. In Scotland and Wales, you need to have the test done within five days.

Wherever you are in the UK, you can ask for a test:

  • for yourself
  • for someone you live with.

In England, you can ask for a test for a child who lives with you, however old they are. In Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, you can only get a test for a child if they are aged five or over.

The test involves using a long cotton bud to take a swab from the inside of your nose and the back of your throat. You can do the test yourself (if you are 12 or over) or someone can do it for you.

The NHS has answers to common questions about getting a COVID-19 test.

Use lateral flow tests if you don't have symptoms 

Everyone in the UK can now get hold of free lateral flow tests for self-testing at home.

Testing yourself at least twice a week, particularly if you are going out to work, or meeting others regularly, can help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Find out how to get tested if you're asymptomatic.

What do I do while I wait for my PCR test result?

You must stay at home until you get your test result unless you have had both COVID vaccinations, and it has been fourteen days since your second jab.

Self-isolating can be difficult, but it’s important as it will help stop the spread of COVID-19. Support is available, whether it’s help with everyday tasks like food shopping, or financial support if you cannot work.

Read more about the help and support available to you, wherever you live in the UK.

What does my test result mean?

For both the PCR and the lateral flow tests, your result will be either:

  • negative
  • positive
  • unclear or void.

Negative

This means that the test did not find coronavirus.

You usually don’t need to continue self-isolating if you get a negative result. But, unless you have had both your vaccinations, you need to self-isolate if:

  • someone you live with (or are in a support bubble with) tests positive
  • you’ve been told you’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive.

If you still feel unwell after a negative result, stay at home until you’re feeling better. Contact a GP if your symptoms get worse or do not go away.

If you're being sick, have diarrhoea, or have a high temperature, stay at home until 48 hours after they've stopped.

You should check with your employer before going back into work.

You can read more about what your test result means and what to do on the NHS website.

Positive

This means the test found signs of coronavirus.

What you need to do depends on the type of test you had:

Positive PCR test

If you’ve had a positive PCR test you must self-isolate until you're no longer infectious. This is usually for 10 full days after your symptoms started or you had the test. Anyone you live with who is double jabbed, or under 18, no longer needs to isolate as a close contact. But they should have a PCR test too as soon as possible and consider keeping a distance and wearing a mask around others until they get their results back. If their test results are also positive, they must isolate too. You can read more about what your test result means and what to do on the NHS website.

Positive rapid lateral flow test

If you did a rapid lateral flow test at home and the result was positive, you should self-isolate immediately. You need to report the result and get a PCR test done to confirm the result. You should continue to self-isolate until you get the result of the PCR test, and then follow the advice given when you get the result. Anyone you live with who has not had both jabs should also self-isolate until you get the result of the PCR test. 

You can read the full government guidance for households with confirmed coronavirus cases on the government website.

Unclear or void

An unclear or void test means that something has gone wrong with processing the sample. Get another test as soon as possible if this happens.

You can read more about what your test result means and what to do on the NHS website.

Test and Trace service

If you haven’t already and your smartphone supports it, you should download the free NHS COVID-19 app. This app is a vital part of the NHS Test and Trace services in England and Wales.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you’ll be contacted by a test and trace service. You’ll be asked where you’ve been recently and who you’ve been in close contact with.

Close contact includes people in your household, people with whom you have had direct contact, or people you have been within two metres for more than 15 minutes.

If you've been in contact with someone who has COVID-19

If you’ve had both your COVID vaccinations, and it is two weeks since your second jab, you no longer have to self-isolate after close contact with someone who has tested positive. You should still get a free PCR test though, and remain cautious around others, particularly those who are clinically vulnerable.

If you have not had two jabs, you should self-isolate if you’ve been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, or if you’ve been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app. Your self-isolation period includes the day you were last in contact with the person who tested positive and the next 10 full days. Have a look at this detailed advice from the gov.uk for more information.

What should I do if my asthma is getting worse?

Emergency care

If you are having an asthma attack, this is an emergency. You must follow the steps on your action plan and get your usual emergency care, including calling 999 if you need to.

Care from your GP

One of the most important things you can do right now is to manage your asthma well. You should make sure that you’re seeking help when you need it and trying to book your usual appointments (even if your GP or asthma nurse might still be doing their appointments over the phone or by video). Speak to your GP or asthma nurse if you are getting asthma symptoms three or more times a week.

Some routine appointments may have been postponed, such as annual reviews. But annual reviews are important to ensure your condition is managed as well as possible and lower your risk of an asthma attack. So do book an annual review as soon as you can.

Follow these four asthma management steps to help you keep well:

  1. Keep taking your preventer inhaler every day, as prescribed. This helps cut your risk of an asthma attack being triggered by any respiratory virus, including coronavirus.
  2. Carry your reliever inhaler with you everywhere. It is important to carry this with you everywhere in case your asthma symptoms start flaring up.
  3. Follow your asthma action plan. This helps you recognise and manage your asthma symptoms when they start. If you don’t have an asthma action plan, or your plan is out of date, it’s important you get one. Find out how to get an asthma action plan.
  4. Start a peak flow diary. If you don’t have a peak flow meter, think about getting one from your GP or pharmacist. It’s a good way of tracking your asthma and helping to tell the difference between asthma symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms.

I can’t go to work because of COVID-19. What should I do?

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 COVID-19 symptoms and need to isolate
  • are in a support bubble with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms and need to isolate
  • have been told to self-isolate by a test and trace service.

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

If you have had both jabs, and it has been two weeks since your second jab, you no longer need to self-isolate and stay home from work if you have come into contact with someone with COVID-19. But you should get a free PCR test as soon as possible.

You can read more about work and COVID-19, including whether you should be going to work if you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, on our other health advice pages.

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’ve been 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. A recent study found people with asthma have an increased risk of having long COVID symptoms. You can find out more about Long COVID on the BLF website.

The NHS website 'your COVID recovery' also has information on managing the effects of COVID-19 if you already have asthma.

Are my symptoms because of my 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 and 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 think you may have Long COVID, or if your COVID symptoms aren’t going away. This could be 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.

What can I do if I have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are still being rolled out across the UK. All adults aged 18 and over should now have been offered either their first or second vaccine, and 16-17 year olds are now being invited for their vaccine.

We know people have a lot of questions about the vaccine, which is why we’ve worked with our sister charity, the British Lung Foundation, to create a COVID-19 vaccine FAQ.

Questions we answer include:

  • When can I get the booster vaccine?
  • What is in the coronavirus vaccine?
  • Can I have the vaccine if I’ve had COVID-19?

Read more about the COVID-19 vaccine.


 

Last updated on: Tuesday 24 August

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