What should people with asthma do now?

How to understand and reduce your risk from coronavirus

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.

This page helps you understand how you can reduce your risk of catching or becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.

You should always follow the government guidance for your area, to make sure you are taking sensible steps to reduce the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19.

I have asthma. Am I more likely to become seriously ill if I catch COVID-19?

There isn’t any evidence to suggest that having asthma makes you more likely to catch coronavirus. In terms of serious illness from coronavirus, people with severe asthma and asthma that is not well controlled may be at higher risk.

It is also not known what the effects of different asthma treatments and types of asthma may have in relation to your risk. This is why it's very important to manage your condition, particularly if you have severe asthma. This includes taking your preventer medicines as prescribed and following your asthma action plan.

What is clear is that everyone is different, and your own level of risk is affected by many different interacting factors. This is why it’s hard to give blanket information about the level of risk from having asthma. 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

What are the main factors that could make a person seriously ill with COVID-19?

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.

However, Public Health England may update this guidance if the scientific advice or spread of coronavirus changes. Many of these factors are connected and you may be at higher risk if you meet more than one of the criteria.

How to reduce your risk of catching COVID-19

There are lots of ways you can stay safe, including:

  • keeping your distance from anyone outside your household
  • washing your hands often, using soap and warm water, or hand sanitiser
  • avoiding crowded places and not meeting up with groups of people – either indoors or outdoors
  • wearing a face covering, if you can
  • working from home, if you can.

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 

Most people with asthma, even if it’s severe, can manage to wear a face mask or covering for a short period of time, and shouldn't worry if they need to wear one. Wearing a mask does not reduce a person’s oxygen supply or cause a build-up of carbon dioxide.

There isn’t a blanket rule about face covering exemptions for everyone with asthma. But if you find it impossible to wear a face covering for health reasons, you don’t have to wear one. An example of this might be if a mask makes you too breathless.

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.

Following this advice is especially important if you are in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ group.

Find the guidance for your area

Restrictions and advice on meeting people are different across the 4 UK nations:

England: Find out the local coronavirus restrictions in your area

Restrictions in Northern Ireland

Local protection levels in Scotland

Guidance for Wales

What should I do over Christmas?

All 4 nations have agreed to relax social restrictions over the Christmas period, from 23 – 27 December. During this time, up to 3 households from any region across the UK can form an exclusive ‘Christmas bubble’. You can read more about the guidance between 23 – 27 December on the government website. In some nations, there are rules about the amount of people who can be in a bubble. In Scotland, a Christmas bubble can only have 8 adults (people over the age of 11).

When you’re planning Christmas, it’s important to still take personal responsibility to reduce the spread of the virus. This is especially important for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Forming a Christmas bubble is a personal decision. Try to weigh up the benefits of forming a Christmas bubble against the likelihood of catching the virus. If you do decide to form a Christmas bubble, you should encourage the other people within your bubble to be mindful of your increased risk and to be extra vigilant in the days before you get together.

It’s OK to ask questions and to say no

It’s reasonable to ask ahead about arrangements, to help your decision. You might want to ask:

  • How many people will be there? Will it be possible to stay 2 metres away from people I don’t normally live with?
  • How big is the space? Will it be possible to keep it well ventilated?
  • What are the bathroom arrangements? Will door handles and surfaces be cleaned regularly?

You might also want to think about seating arrangements, to make sure you are sat near to people you normally live with.

And remember, if you don’t feel comfortable forming a Christmas bubble, don’t feel pressured to.

Should I be going to work?

Wherever you are in the UK, you should work from home if you can. The guidance in each of the 4 nations can be found here:

Going to work in England

Working in Northern Ireland

Guidance on working in Scotland

Working in Wales

If you can’t work from home, you should only be going back into your workplace if your employer has made it safe to work. HSE has a guide on what a COVID-secure workplace should look like.

If you have concerns that your workplace isn’t safe, you should discuss this with your employer. If you can’t find a resolution, try contacting your trade union or getting advice from Acas.

Find out what to do about work if you’re considered clinically extremely vulnerable.

How can I look after my asthma during the pandemic?

You should still be getting your usual asthma care at this time, but some elements might look a bit different.

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 going to A&E or calling 999 if you need to.

Care from your GP

If you have asthma, your risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus may be higher, particularly if you have severe asthma or your asthma is not well controlled. 

This means it’s really important to take all your preventer medications as prescribed to keep your asthma controlled. Speak to your GP or asthma nurse if you are getting asthma symptoms 3 or more times a week.

Follow these 4 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 your 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. How to get an asthma action plan

4. Start a peak flow diary, if you have a peak flow meter.

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 if I need it?

Wherever you are in the UK, there is support available if you need to self-isolate. There’s more information on localised support on our shielding page.

Look after your mental health

It’s important to look after your mental health right now, whether you’ve had coronavirus or not. Here are a few organisations that can help you do that:

Every Mind Matters

Clear Your Head (Scotland)

Rethink

Mind

Mental Health Foundation

Samaritans

If you’re feeling anxious about COVID-19

The coronavirus outbreak is difficult for everyone – your life may have been affected a little, or it may have been affected a lot. Over the last few months, you may have felt 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, or some yoga or an exercise video at home. Even if you aren’t able to 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 increase how much alcohol you drink.

Stay social

It’s really important to keep in touch with friends and family. 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.

NHS support

Even if you're not in the shielding group, if you meet certain criteria you can access 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. 

You can request this support online or by calling 0808 196 3646 if:

  • you're 70 or older with an underlying health condition
  • you have moderate to severe asthma
  • you're pregnant
  • you're registered disabled
  • you have certain other medical conditions
  • you're newly socially vulnerable because of coronavirus.


You can find the full list of criteria on the NHS volunteer responders website

Last updated on: Friday 27 November