What should people with asthma do now?

How to cut the risk of getting coronavirus and what happens to your usual asthma care

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.

Help stop the spread of coronavirus

Everyone needs to do their bit to slow down the spread of coronavirus. If you have asthma, and have not received a letter asking you to follow the shielding guidance, you can only go out:

  • to get essentials like food and medicine
  • to exercise outdoors
  • for any medical need
  • to support a vulnerable person
  • to go to work, only if you can't work from home.

The rules are different in each of the four UK nations. For example, in England it is now possible to meet up with one person from another household in an outdoor setting, as long as you stay 2 metres apart. To find out what the new guidance is in different parts of the UK, please visit:

Continue to wash your hands often, with soap and water. Don't touch your face if your hands aren't clean. Use tissues to wipe your nose or catch a sneeze, and bin them straight away.

Manage your asthma well to reduce the risk from coronavirus

When people with asthma get respiratory infections, it can set off their asthma symptoms.

The best action you can take is to follow these simple asthma management steps:

  • Keep taking your preventer inhaler daily as prescribed. This will help cut your risk of an asthma attack being triggered by any respiratory virus, including coronavirus.
  • Carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you every day, in case you feel your asthma symptoms flaring up.
  • Download and use an asthma action plan to help you recognise and manage asthma symptoms when they come on.
  • 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, as it can be a good way of tracking your asthma and helping to tell the difference between asthma symptoms and COVID-19 coronavirus symptoms. It can also help your medical team to assess you over the phone or video.
  • If you come down with flu, a cold, or any other respiratory infection, follow our tips for looking after your asthma when you’re not well.
  • If you smoke it’s vital to quit now as smoking will increase your risk from coronavirus. There’s NHS advice on how to give up smoking here.

Your usual asthma care

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

Your GP is likely to be doing most of their appointments over the phone or video. If they still need to see you, they will ask you to come into the surgery, but you should expect to talk to them on the phone first.

If your asthma is getting worse, you still need to make an urgent appointment to talk to your GP.

Some routine appointments might be postponed at this time. This may include annual asthma reviews in some GP surgeries. If this is the case for you, make sure you book an asthma review as soon as you are able to. These reviews help you make sure that your asthma is managed as well as possible and can help you cut the risk of an asthma attack.

We believe that everyone with asthma should have an annual asthma review, but because coronavirus is putting pressure on the NHS, GP practices may have to prioritise patients who:

  • haven’t got an up to date asthma action plan
  • have poorly controlled asthma. Signs of this might be having had 3 or more courses of oral steroids in the last year; or getting through more than 1 reliever inhaler a month
  • are using reliever inhalers or long acting bronchodilators without having a steroid preventer inhaler
  • haven’t had an annual review or had their inhaler technique checked in the last year, starting with those who are most overdue
  • are on a beta blocker as well as asthma medicines.

And you should still get an urgent appointment if:

  • you have had to go to hospital or had a course of steroid tablets for a recent flare up of your asthma. You should be seen within 48 hours after leaving hospital.
  • you are needing a lot of your reliever inhaler (you’re needing it more than 3 times a week).

Specialist care

If you see a specialist for your asthma, it’s likely they will also be taking appointments over the phone or video chat. They may also postpone certain types of appointments.

Your hospital or specialist care team will let you know what to do if you have an appointment coming up.

Your medicines

You should order your asthma medicines as normal. Don’t try to stockpile your medicines or order more than you need.

We have heard that some people are finding it difficult to get hold of certain asthma medicines. If your pharmacist doesn’t have your usual medicines, they will try to give you an alternative. If they can’t, you could try ringing around other pharmacies to see if they have your medicine, or an equivalent, in stock. Or go back to your GP to see if they can prescribe something else.

If you need to change your medicines, you can find information and support here. If you get a new inhaler device, have a look at our inhaler videos to help you master the technique.

Should I wear a face mask or face covering?

In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the governments are now recommending that people wear a face covering in enclosed spaces, where:

  • social distancing may not be possible
  • you may come into contact with people you don’t normally meet.

Examples of where this could happen are public transport and some shops.

Face masks are not currently recommended in Wales.

For some people with asthma, wearing a face covering might not be easy. It could make it feel harder to breathe. The government has advised that people with respiratory conditions don’t need to wear face coverings, so if you are finding it hard, then don’t wear one.

Clinical face masks are used as part of personal protective equipment (PPE) and should only be used by healthcare workers and other workers in high-risk environments. If you’re comfortable to wear a face covering, please use a cloth or home-made one, not a medical type face mask.

The government has said that children and teachers do not need to wear face coverings at school.

Supporting your wellbeing while staying at home

It’s really important to look after yourself while you are staying at home, even if you don’t have symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

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.

Look after your physical health

Eat healthy meals, drink enough water, and try not to increase how much alcohol you drink. If you smoke, now is a great time to give up as smoking raises the risk from coronavirus. You can find out more about quitting here.

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.

Get support

Even if you're not in the shielding group, if you meet certain criteria you can now 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 as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

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

Look after your mental health

Lots of people are feeling anxious or struggling with their mental health at the moment. The Mental Health Foundation has produced a great list of tips to help people cope with anxiety. Ideas include:

  • Making sure you’re looking after yourself, so you feel more able to cope with whatever happens.
  • Watch out for bad habits like increasing your alcohol consumption. Try to make sure you are getting some exercise
  • Only looking at reliable sources of information, like the NHS and the gov.uk websites.
  • Staying connected to friends and family and talking about your worries.

 Last updated on: Monday 18th May

We hope you have found this content useful

 

Our team of health experts is working tirelessly on a daily basis to provide the latest and most up to date health advice concerning Coronavirus (COVID-19) for people with asthma.

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