COVID-19 - what should people with asthma do?

How to reduce your risk from COVID-19 when you have asthma

Find out how you can reduce your risk from coronavirus, and how to continue to manage your asthma well.

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If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19:

Stay at home and avoid contact with others until you feel well.  

You can find a list of the main symptoms of COVID-19 on the NHS website.

Am I more at risk from coronavirus if I have asthma?

Most people with well-controlled asthma are not at any higher risk from coronavirus than the general population.

However, studies do suggest a slightly higher risk for people with non-allergic asthma.

And we also know that anyone whose asthma is poorly controlled is considered at higher risk of severe disease or being admitted to hospital with coronavirus.

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.

Other factors that could increase your risk 

Research has identified other factors that may increase your risk of serious illness from coronavirus including:

  • older age
  • male sex assigned at birth
  • black or Asian ethnicity
  • excess weight
  • other underlying medical conditions including heart disease and diabetes.

You may have more than one of these factors, which can increase your risk further.

Will vaccines and boosters lower my risk from COVID-19?

Being vaccinated lowers your risk from serious illness and hospitalisation from coronavirus.

Make sure you’re double vaccinated and have had your booster vaccines so you’re better protected against COVID-19, including new variants.

Coronavirus vaccines 

All adults, and children aged 5 and over, are eligible for two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

Some people in higher risk groups are also eligible for a third primary dose.

Booster vaccines

All adults and young people over 16 are eligible for a booster vaccine. A booster vaccine offers more protection against COVID-19.

Some 12-15 year-olds at higher risk from coronavirus are also eligible for a booster jab.

In the UK, people aged 75 and over, the immunosuppressed, and those living in care homes for older adults, have been offered an extra COVID-19 booster vaccine six months after the first booster.

Find out more about the COVID-19 vaccines and booster jabs.

Do I follow the same public health advice as everyone else?

People with asthma are advised by the government to follow the same public health advice as everyone else. 

Keep yourself, and others, as safe as possible by:

  • getting vaccinated, and having your boosters 
  • wearing a face mask in certain situations if you can - find out more about wearing a face covering when you have asthma
  • washing your hands often using soap and warm water, and use hand sanitiser when out and about
  • covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing
  • cleaning your surroundings frequently.

If you're anxious about getting back to normal after the coronavirus pandemic, the NHS has helpful advice.

Staying safe when socialising with others 

While no situation is risk free, there are some simple steps you can take to stay safe when meeting up with friends and family:

  • Meet people outside where possible
  • Let fresh air in by opening doors and windows if you're meeting people inside
  • Avoid crowded, enclosed places
  • Avoid meeting others if you have any symptoms of a respiratory illness, including COVID-19.

Staying safe at work 

Employers are no longer required by law to consider COVID-19 in their workplace risk assessments. However, health and safety laws are still in place to protect people at work.  

If you’re concerned about your risk from coronavirus at work, you should speak to your employer.  It might also help you feel safer to:

  • ask your manager if you can adjust your hours to avoid travelling in the rush hour, or if you can continue to work some days at home if possible
  • wear a mask on public transport, and continue to wear one if you work in an enclosed, crowded place around people you don’t know
  • plan your journey so you can walk or cycle into work for all or part of the way, or, if you have a car, you may decide to drive to work.

If you feel like your employer is not doing enough to keep you safe at work, and you can’t find a resolution, try contacting your trade union, getting advice from ACAS, or contacting Citizens Advice. 

Can I get an asthma review?

Routine asthma reviews are an important part of asthma care. So do go for your routine review as soon as you’re invited, even if you feel well with your asthma.

This may be over the phone, by video call, or in person. 

If you’re having an asthma review remotely you should still expect to: 

You’re more likely to be called for an asthma review if your asthma is not well controlled. This is to help GP practices prioritise those people who need to be seen more urgently.

Ask for an urgent appointment

If you’re getting asthma symptoms, or need to use your reliever inhaler three or more times a week.

Can I do the usual breathing tests for my asthma?

Spirometry

Spirometry is available at some in-person appointments, in particular to confirm an asthma diagnosis.

There should be a risk assessment, and spirometry should only be offered if the risk is considered low.

Peak flow 

Peak flow is a helpful way to keep an eye on your asthma. You can continue to test your peak flow if you have your own peak flow meter. You can do this routinely at home, adding your scores to a peak flow diary chart.

  • If you have an in-person appointment, take your own peak flow meter with you.
  • If you have a video/online asthma review, your GP or asthma nurse may ask you to check your peak flow using your own peak flow meter.

If you don’t have a peak flow meter and you need one, ask your GP to prescribe one. 

Can I get emergency help if I have an asthma attack?

An asthma attack is a medical emergency. You should follow the steps on your asthma action plan. Don’t delay calling 999 if you need to.

You may need to be treated in A&E (Accident and Emergency) or in hospital. A&E departments and hospitals have made lots of changes to make sure people can feel safe coming in for treatment.

Get step-by-step advice on how to deal with an asthma attack. 

Can I carry on taking all my usual asthma treatments?

Yes, you should carry on taking all your usual asthma treatments. It’s very important to continue managing your asthma well. You’re more at risk from COVID-19 if your asthma is not well controlled.

If you’re taking biologics for severe asthma, you shouldn’t change how you take them, unless you’re advised to do so by your GP or specialist. You may be asked to do your own injections at home, instead of at the clinic/in hospital.

Tests for coronavirus

In England and Scotland, lateral flow tests and PCR tests are no longer free for the general public. You can purchase lateral flow tests at some pharmacies.

However, free tests are available for:

  • people who are eligible for COVID-19 treatments because they are at higher risk from coronavirus
  • people who live or work in higher risk situations, for example residents in care homes and NHS staff
  • patients in hospital if a test is needed for their care.

Find out more about who is eligible for free COVID-19 tests

If you test positive with either a lateral flow or PCR test, you should follow the public health guidance for where you live, stay at home, and avoid contact with other people until you feel well. This helps stop the spread of coronavirus and protects others, particularly those at high risk from serious illness.

If you're not sure about what you need to do, you call the NHS coronavirus helpline on 119.

Find out more about having COVID-19 and asthma.

 

Stay at home if you test positive for COVID-19

Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 is advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least five full days.

This helps stop the spread and protects others, particularly those at high risk from serious illness.

 

What support can I get?

Wherever you are in the UK, there is support available if you need to stay at home

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.

You might be entitled to welfare benefits if you are unable to work because of coronavirus. Find out what you might be entitled to, or get in touch with Citizens Advice.

You can get advice and support about looking after your asthma by calling our Helpline, 0300 222 5800 (9am-5pm; Monday-Friday). Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728. 

 

Last updated on: 22 June 2022

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