What should people with asthma do now?

Understand how you can reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19

Find out how you can reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, what to do to manage your asthma well, and where to get support if you need it.

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Asthma and your risk of becoming ill with COVID-19

How your asthma affects your risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 is mainly linked to how well controlled your asthma is. 

Adults and children with poorly controlled asthma are considered at higher clinical risk from COVID-19.

However, if you have any type of asthma there is a small increase in the risk of needing to go to hospital if you get COVID-19. Although the risk of this happening is small, it’s still very important to manage your condition well.

It’s also important to remember that your own level of risk is affected by many different interacting factors. Your asthma may play a part in your level of risk from coronavirus, but your risk is also affected by lots of other things too.

Public Health England has identified the main factors that increase the risk of catching and becoming seriously ill with coronavirus as:

  • being older
  • being obese (with a BMI over 30)
  • your ethnic background
  • a weakened immune system
  • having an underlying health condition (including asthma)
  • being a man
  • your job – your risk level is higher if you work outside your home and come in to contact with lots of people every day
  • where you live - if lots of people in your area are infected with coronavirus, it’s more likely you’ll catch it - find official coronavirus statistics for your area. 

Many of these factors are connected and you may be at higher risk if you meet more than one of the criteria.

Reducing your risk of catching and spreading COVID-19

There are lots of ways you can reduce the risk of catching and spreading the coronavirus, including:

  • following the government guidance for where you live or work
  • meeting outside where possible or keeping inside well ventilated
  • getting vaccinated and encouraging friends and family to do the same
  • getting a PCR test if you develop symptoms
  • self-testing regularly with a lateral flow test if you don’t have symptoms
  • self-isolating if you get positive test results
  • washing your hands often, using soap and warm water, or hand sanitiser
  • wearing a face covering (if you can) to help protect others.

Stop smoking

Coronavirus is a respiratory infection. If you smoke, you have an increased risk of contracting a respiratory infection and of having worse symptoms. This means that if you catch coronavirus, your symptoms may be worse than those of a non-smoker. Smokers also touch their mouth and face more, which increases the risk of transmitting the virus from hand to mouth.

It’s important that if you smoke, you stop as soon as possible. As well as lowering your risk from coronavirus, your breathing becomes easier within days of stopping smoking.

Get advice on how to stop smoking.

Wear a face mask or face covering

Across the UK wearing a face mask is a legal requirement in certain settings, including in shops and on public transport, as well as in healthcare settings.

We strongly encourage everyone who can to wear a face covering in enclosed or crowded spaces.

We have more information and advice on wearing a face covering if you have asthma, including an exemption card if you can't wear one.

Coronavirus vaccine and the booster

Coronavirus vaccine

All coronavirus vaccines are very effective at reducing your risk of becoming ill with COVID-19. Being vaccinated also reduces your risk of becoming infected with the virus. But it doesn’t mean you can't get it.

All UK adults aged 18 and over can get the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is initially given in two doses 8-12 weeks apart.

Book online using the NHS booking service

Young people aged 16 and 17

All UK teenagers aged 16-17 are eligible for two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The second dose should be at least eight weeks after the first dose. 

16 and 17-year-olds do not need a parent or guardian’s permission to get vaccinated. 

Book online using the NHS booking service

Children aged 12-15

All UK children aged 12 to 15 are eligible for two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This can be given in school, but you can also book an appointment for your child online (using the NHS booking service) and go to your local vaccination centre.

Parents or guardians will be asked to give consent for their child aged 12-15 to be vaccinated. If there is disagreement between parents and children, a child who is considered by a healthcare professional to be capable of making an informed choice about vaccination can have the vaccine without a parent’s consent.

Children aged 5-11

The JCVI has said some children aged 5-11 should be offered coronavirus vaccinations:

  • if they are in a clinical risk group (this includes those with poorly controlled asthma)
  • if they live in a household of someone who is immunosuppressed

If they are eligible, children can get two smaller doses of the Pfizer vaccine, given 8 weeks apart.

It’s not clear yet how children of this age group will be offered the vaccines.

Booster vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine booster programme offers extra protection from coronavirus, including the omicron variant.

Booster doses can be given three months after your second primary dose.

Most people will have the Pfizer vaccine for the booster (regardless of which vaccine you had for your first and second doses). A half dose of the Moderna vaccine has also been approved for use.

AstraZeneca may be given to some people if they have medical reasons that mean they can't have Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna.

Who can get the booster vaccine?

Boosters are being offered to everyone over 16 in the UK, starting with those in older age groups, or who have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk from COVID-19. It's currently unclear how 16 and 17-year-olds will be offered their booster vaccine.

In England, everyone over 18 can book their booster vaccine online if it has been three months or more since their last dose. You can also get your booster dose at a walk-in centre.

Boosters for children under the age of 16

12-15 year-olds are now eligible for a booster vaccine if they are at risk from COVID-19, this includes people with poorly controlled asthma, or if they live with someone who is immunosuppressed. You are eligible for your booster once it has been three months since your second vaccine.

Find out when you can book your booster in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Omicron variant

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported a new variant of coronavirus called Omicron. Data suggests Omicron spreads more easily than other variants of coronavirus. It is not yet known if Omicron causes more serious illness.

Early reports (from the UK Health and Security agency) show a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine (booster) offers people over 70% protection from getting seriously ill with coronavirus.

The government is therefore urging all adults who have had two doses of the vaccine at least three months ago to book their booster jab as soon as possible.

Poorly controlled asthma

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 admissions for asthma in the last 24 months.

Third primary dose of the vaccine for immunosuppressed 

A very small group of people with asthma are eligible for a third primary dose of the coronavirus vaccine. This is separate to the booster vaccine campaign. Your specialist will tell you if you need a third primary dose.

Those eligible for a third primary dose will also be invited for a booster vaccine (fourth dose) at least three months after their third primary vaccine. 

Getting your flu jab 

If you have been invited to book your flu vaccine, don’t delay getting protected against flu. More people are expected to get flu this year, and if you get flu and Covid-19 at the same time you’re more at risk of being seriously ill.

You may be offered a flu jab at the same time as your COVID vaccine, although not all centres will be able to offer both.

If you are offered both jabs, the JCVI has advised that the COVID vaccine and flu vaccine can be safely given at the same time.

Watch the NHS film on winter vaccines. 

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

Get tested regularly when you don’t have symptoms

Regular testing is important to understand and slow the spread of COVID-19. Self-testing can also help stop asymptomatic people (those without symptoms) from spreading the virus to other people without them knowing.

Lateral flow tests can be done at home and give you a result within 15-30 minutes. These tests are for people who don’t have COVID-19 symptoms.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, wherever you live in the UK, you should self-isolate and request a PCR test online.

All results from lateral flow tests must be reported, whether the result is positive, negative, or void. Full instructions on how to complete the test and how to report results are given in each pack. How often you should self-test may vary, depending on your circumstances (such as your workplace requirements) and current national or local guidelines.

Everyone can now get free lateral flow tests for COVID-19. Get a lateral flow test in your area

Biologic medicines for asthma and COVID-19 vaccines

Many people with severe asthma take medicines called biologics (known as mAbs, or monoclonal antibodies) alongside their usual asthma medicines. You can find out more about these medicines on our biologic therapies for severe asthma page.

If you take biologics yourself, you might be wondering how it affects getting your COVID-19 vaccine.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Pfizer/BionNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe for people who take biologics. If you’re taking biologics for your asthma, you shouldn’t change how you take them unless you’re advised to do so by your GP or specialist.

You’re advised not to receive your COVID vaccine and biologic on the same day and, if possible, leave seven days between getting the COVID vaccine and your asthma biologic. However, these decisions should be made by your specialist, so it’s important not to stop taking or change any of your medicines without speaking to them first.

Going to work

Employers are legally responsible for protecting the health and safety of their workers and they should be able to explain to you the measures they are taking to keep you safe. The government has released guidance on working safely during coronavirus to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In all four nations of the UK, people are currently being advised to work from home if they can.

If you can’t work from home, we understand you may be worried about going to work, especially if you have a public-facing role. If you’re concerned about your health and safety in the workplace, you should speak with your employer in the first instance. If you can’t find a resolution, try contacting your trade union, getting advice from ACAS, or contacting Citizens Advice.

If you do go into work, think about how you will get there. Walk, cycle, or drive if possible. If you do need to use public transport, try speaking to your employer about changing your working hours so you can travel at quieter times of the day.

You might also be able to try and reduce the number of people you spend time with. Your employer could support you in this by changing shift patterns so you’re with the same people each time, or by working in smaller teams.

Socialising with family and friends

Across the UK rules on masks and social distancing vary in settings such as in schools and hospitality, depending on where you live. So, it’s important to check ahead to find out what’s expected.

We know that for some people being able to meet up with friends and family is a cause for celebration. However, it’s important to remember that not everyone will feel as comfortable and confident as society reopens.

Some people may want to continue social distancing even if it’s no longer a legal requirement. Others may prefer to meet outside or to know a person’s vaccination status before meeting up with them. It’s important to be respectful and understanding that some people may want to take a more cautious approach.

Here are some conversation starters to help you navigate these situations. You might say:

  • “Just to let you know, I plan to wear a face covering when we meet and I’d be grateful if you could wear one as well. This is because wearing one helps to reduce the spread of coronavirus and other viruses – while cases are still quite high, I’d like to carry on doing my bit to protect other people.”
  • “I was wondering if you’ve had all doses of your coronavirus vaccine yet. You get the best protection when you have all doses, and recent studies have shown that they do help prevent transmission.”
  • “When I come over to yours, is it OK if we sit in the garden? Being outside helps prevent the spread of the virus.”

We also have advice for the higher-risk groups about how you can stay safer when meeting up with family and friends.

How can I look after my asthma during the pandemic?

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).

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.

Emergency care

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

Care from your GP

Speak to your GP or asthma nurse if you are getting asthma symptoms three or more times a week.

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.

What support can I get?

Wherever you are in the UK, there is support available if you need to self-isolate. Find out more about support you can get if you are clinically extremely vulnerable.

In all four nations, you can get in touch with your local COVID Mutual Aid group. They’ll put you in touch with people who live locally who’ll be able to help you.

In England, if you meet certain criteria, you can get support from the NHS volunteer responders. They can do things like helping you with shopping, getting prescriptions, or just checking in to see how you are doing. Register for support online or by calling 0808 196 3646. There are equivalent services in the devolved administrations.

You might be entitled to welfare benefits. For more information on what you might be entitled to, take a look at our information or get in touch with the Citizens Advice.

Help if you’re feeling anxious about COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic is difficult for everyone – your life may have been affected a little, or it may have been affected a lot. You may feel worried, lonely, stressed, anxious, or bored.

Here are some suggestions that might help your health and wellbeing:

Try to keep active

Do whatever physical activity you can manage. This might be a walk or run around your local area, some yoga in your living room, or doing an online class. Even if you can’t do much exercise, try to break up the time you spend sitting down by walking around at home.

Watch what you eat and drink

Eat healthy meals, drink enough water, and try not to drink too much alcohol.

Stay social

It’s important to keep in touch with friends and family. In stressful times, we cope better with support from those close to us. You can send texts or emails, call people on the phone or use video chat to stay in touch with people who are important to you.

Get support if you need it

It’s important to look after your mental health right now, whether you’ve had coronavirus or not.

If you’re struggling to cope, talk to your GP. They’ll be able to offer you advice on things you can do to help, and in some cases offer treatment to help you feel better.

Here are a few organisations that can help you:

 

Last updated on: Thursday 23 December

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