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.

 

If you are not eligible yet

Wait to be contacted. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable (in priority group 4) and have not had your vaccine, you should contact the NHS to arrange your jab. The advice for everyone else is to wait until you're invited. Our sister charity, the British Lung Foundation, has a COVID-19 vaccine FAQ, which will help to answer some of the questions you might have.

 

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 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 and arrange a Covid test

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

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you 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 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.

How do I get a COVID test?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you need to get a test as soon as possible. You need to get a test done in the first 5 days of showing symptoms, so it’s important that you don’t wait.

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 5 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 may be able to choose between driving to a testing centre or getting a home test kit in the post. Some areas also have walk-in test centres.

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

Get tested regularly if you don't have symptoms 

It's important to get tested regularly if you don't have symptoms, as this will also 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 a test result?

You must stay at home until you get your test result.

Self-isolating can be difficult, but it’s important as it will help stop the spread of COVID-19. Help and 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?

Your test result will be either:

  • negative
  • positive
  • unclear.

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 you may 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. You should continue to self-isolate, and so should anyone you live with, or are in a support bubble with.

What you need to do depends on the type of swab test you had. If you’ve had a rapid swab test, you and anyone you live with should self-isolate until you get the result of the 2nd test

If you’ve had another type of swab test, you and anyone you live with must self-isolate until you're no longer infectious. This is usually until 10 full days after your symptoms started or you had the test. You can read more about what your test result means and what to do on the NHS website.

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

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.

Unclear

An unclear test means that something has gone wrong with processing the sample in the lab. 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 2 metres for more than 15 minutes.

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

To stop people unknowingly spreading the virus, if you’ve been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, you’ll be 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 NHS for more information.

What should I do if my 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.

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
  • are in a support bubble with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms
  • 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. 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 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 Long COVID on the BLF website

The NHS Your Covid Recovery website 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.

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 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.

Would you like to talk to someone?

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

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

COVID-19 vaccines are now being rolled out across the UK. These are being offered in stages and when it’s your turn to get the vaccine, you’ll be contacted. 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 vaccine?
  • What is in the coronavirus vaccine?
  • Can I have the vaccine if I’ve had COVID-19?

Read the COVID-19 vaccine FAQ.

Last updated on: Friday 16 April

Visit our Post-COVID Hub

If you have breathing difficulties after coronavirus, find information and dedicated support for your physical and mental health.

 

Post Covid Hub

 

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