Coronavirus guidance for high-risk groups

Up to date advice for people who are at higher risk from COVID-19

Find out what to do if you’re at higher risk of severe symptoms from COVID-19 infection, how to keep yourself safe, and what treatments are available to high-risk groups.

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Does my asthma mean I’m at higher risk from coronavirus? 

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

However, some people with asthma may be considered more at risk of severe disease or being admitted to hospital if they catch coronavirus.

This includes anyone with asthma who:

  • has severe or poorly controlled asthma
  • is immunosuppressed due to high doses of steroids.

If you have certain other conditions as well as your asthma, such as heart disease or diabetes, you’ll also fall into the higher risk group. Pregnancy is considered a risk factor too.

The British Thoracic Society defines poorly controlled asthma as:

  1. Two or more courses of steroid tablets in the last 24 months OR
  2. Taking steroid tablets every day for asthma OR
  3. One or more hospital admission for asthma in the last 24 months.

What can I do to keep myself safe if I’m at higher risk? 

Everyone should be doing what they can to protect themselves and others from coronavirus, and follow the public health guidance for where they live.

If you’re considered at higher risk, it’s worth taking these precautions:

  • Talk to your GP or specialist about what you can do to keep yourself safe
  • Make sure you’re double vaccinated and have had a third primary dose if you’re eligible
  • Get your booster vaccines, so you’re better protected against COVID-19
  • Wear a face mask in indoor and crowded places - find out more about wearing a face covering when you have asthma
  • Meet people outside if possible, or if inside, let fresh air in as much as you can
  • Continue to social distance where possible - find out about Distance Aware badges and lanyards
  • Ask friends and family to do a lateral flow test before they meet up with you if they can
  • Take a PCR test if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Do this as soon as possible, even if your symptoms are mild. If you're eligible, you should be sent a free PCR test to keep at home. This is so you can be assessed for treatments quickly if you test positive.

We have lots of advice to help you keep safe whether that’s going to work, socialising with friends and family, or looking after your mental health.

The NHS also has some useful advice if you're feeling anxious about getting back to normal after the coronavirus pandemic. 

Do I need to shield? 

The shielding programme has now ended in the UK.

People in the clinically extremely vulnerable group, who were asked to shield at the start of the pandemic, are now advised to follow the same public health guidance as the rest of the population. 

Experts will continue to assess the risks from coronavirus to the most vulnerable, but for now, no one in the UK is being asked to shield.

Get coronavirus guidance for where you live in the UK. 

Getting your vaccinations 

All adults, and all children over five, can get two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

Read our vaccine FAQ to find out more about the COVID-19 vaccine.

If you are at higher risk of coronavirus, or live with someone who is immunosuppressed, and have not yet had your vaccine you should book one as soon as possible.

Third vaccine for immunosuppressed 

A third primary dose is available to anyone aged 12 and over who was severely immunosuppressed around the time of their first or second COVID-19 vaccine. 

This includes people with asthma who were taking:

  • high dose corticosteroids (20mg or more of prednisolone per day) for more than 10 days in the month before vaccination
  • high dose steroids (more than 40mg prednisolone per day for more than a week) for any reason in the month before vaccination
  • long term moderate dose corticosteroids (10mg or more of prednisolone per day for more than four weeks) in the three months before vaccination.

The third primary dose should be given at least eight weeks after the second dose, but timings may be affected if you're on any immunosuppressive therapies. Your specialist will tell you if you’re eligible for a third primary dose.

If you have not yet had your third primary dose, book it now. You’ll then be able to book a booster vaccine three months after your third dose.

Boosters for all adults and young people over 16

Everyone over 16 in the UK can get a booster. 

A booster vaccine offers more protection against coronavirus, including new variants.

People over the age of 18 can book their booster vaccine online if it has been three months or more since their last dose. They can also get their booster dose at a walk-in centre.

In the UK, people aged 75 and over, the immunosuppressed, and those living in care homes for older adults, are being offered an additional COVID-19 booster vaccine. This extra booster jab will be given six months after the first booster dose.

Boosters for 12–15 year-olds in high-risk groups 

Some 12–15 year-olds are eligible for a booster vaccine if it has been three months since their second vaccine, or third, if they were eligible for a third dose.

This includes children:

  • with poorly controlled asthma
  • on high or moderate doses of corticosteroids
  • who live with someone who is immunosuppressed.

Coronavirus treatments for those at increased risk

There are coronavirus treatments available to those most at risk of serious illness from the virus.

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

If you're 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 coronavirus symptoms. If the result of the PCR is positive, the NHS will then contact you about accessing treatments.

Find out more about the coronavirus treatments, including how you can access antiviral treatments if you’re not in an identified high-risk group, but are still at risk of becoming unwell.

Getting your flu jab

If you have been invited to book your flu vaccine, don’t delay getting protected against flu. If you get flu and COVID-19 at the same time you’re more at risk of being seriously ill.

Watch the NHS film on winter vaccines.

You can get advice and support if you are at higher risk from coronavirus by calling our Helpline, 03000 2225800 (9am-5pm; Monday to Friday). Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378606728.  

Last updated on: Friday 1 April 2022

Free advice for everyone - but at what cost?

As a charity, Asthma UK provides free health advice to millions of people through our Website and our specialist nurses Helpline - a team dedicated to offering life-changing advice over the phone.

As the UK's leading asthma charity, now more than ever before people need our help, yet COVID-19 has devastated our ability to raise vital funds! For us to continue being there for everyone who needs us, we need your support.

If you've benefited from this advice on face coverings today, if you can please make a small donation to help ensure we can give you the support you need now and in the future.


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