Mary Ryan

Article by Mary Ryan

COVID-19 and Asthma

This article will discuss the ways in which we can reduce of risk of contracting COVID-19 and also the ways in which those with asthma can continue to manage their asthma symptoms.

Published 24/03/2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has labelled the outbreak of the novel coronavirus; COVID-19, a pandemic. As it’s a new illness, we do not know how easily the virus spreads from person to person but COVID-19 is likely to spread by coming into close contact with someone who has the virus and is coughing or sneezing, or by touching surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on.

COVID-19 and Asthma

Those with asthma are considered to be in the at-risk group of experiencing more serious side effects of COVID-19 and therefore it is very important that you try to avoid contracting the disease and also try to keep your asthma well controlled.

Those with severe asthma are strongly recommended to follow “shielding” guidelines set out here . The NHS in England is directly contacting people with relevant conditions to provide further advice.If you think you fall into one of the categories of extremely vulnerable people listed and you have not received a letter by Sunday 29 March 2020 or been contacted by your GP, you should discuss your concerns with your GP or hospital clinician.

Symptoms of the virus
  • fever (high temperature)
  • a cough – this can be any kind of cough, not just dry
  • shortness of breath
  • breathing difficulties

Other symptoms are fatigue, headaches, sore throat, aches and pains.

Ways to reduce the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 
  1. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly .
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  3. Cover your cough with the bend of your elbow, or use a tissue (and bin it immediately afterwards).
  4. Maintain social distancing.
  5. Stay at home if you feel unwell- even if it is just a cough or a mild temperature.
  6. If you do have a fever, difficulty breathing, or a cough, seek help early, but phone first.
  7. Stay up to date with reliable and factual information from sources such as the WHO.

Practice “social distancing” and avoid all unnecessary social interaction and physical contact with others.  Avoid all unnecessary travel, especially on public transport. If it’s possible in your job, work from home.

Please note that those who have severe asthma (or others who are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 because of an underlying health condition) and have been contacted by the NHS or their GP, should follow the “shielding” guidelines set out on the gov.uk website and the advice of the NHS or their GP. “Shielding” guidelines include :

  • not leaving your home – you should not go out to do shopping, visit friends or family, or attend any gatherings
  • avoiding close contact with other people in your home as much as possible
Top Tips for Managing your Asthma
  • Keep up to date with reliable sources of information, like the NHS and gov.uk websites.
  • Always take your preventer inhaler and medicines as prescribed. This will reduce your risk suffering an asthma attack and control your asthma symptoms. 
  • Keep your Asthma Action Plan up to date. This will help you recognise when your asthma is worsening. It is important that you talk to your GP or asthma nurse if you feel that your asthma is not controlled.
  • Know your asthma triggers and try to avoid them where possible. Triggers include pollen, dust, smoke, chemicals, perfumes, etc.
  • Ensure you are practicing proper inhaler technique. 
  • Always carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you in case of an asthma emergency. 
  • Start a peak flow diary, if you have a peak flow meter. This will help you to monitor your symptoms.
  • Do not smoke and avoid areas where smoke is present if possible
  • Get your prescription filled to ensure you have enough medication for one month, there is no need to stock up beyond that as there are no issues with medicine supply.
  • If you are experiencing a “new” fever or “new” cough, you need to stay in your home for 7 days if you live on your own, or 14 days if you live with others. Everyone in your household will need to stay in the house for 14 days. Use the online 111 service or call 111 for advice at the onset of symptoms. Tell them that you have asthma.
  • If your COVID-19 symptoms don’t go away after 7 days, or get worse, or you are having difficulty breathing, call 111 for advice, or 999 if you need emergency care. Tell them that you have asthma.
  • If you get a cough and are not sure whether it is a symptom of COVID-19 or related to your asthma, please speak to your GP, use the online 111 service or call 111 to ensure that you get the right care. 
COVID-19 and Anxiety

The Mental Health Foundation has created a wonderful list of tips to help people cope with some of the anxiety associated with COVID-19. Some ideas include;

  • Making sure you’re looking after yourself, so you feel more able to cope with whatever happens.
  • Stay in touch with friends and family, and talk to them about your worries but try not to sensationalise things.
  • Try to exercise every day.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Only looking at reliable sources of information, like the NHS and the gov.uk websites.

Asthma.ie. 2020. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice | Asthma Society Of Ireland. [online] Available at: <https://www.asthma.ie/news/coronavirus-covid-19-advice> [Accessed 18 March 2020].

Asthma UK. 2020. Coronavirus (COVID-19) | Asthma UK. [online] Available at: <https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/coronavirus-covid-19/#Anxious> [Accessed 18 March 2020].

GOV.UK. 2020. Guidance On Social Distancing For Everyone In The UK. [online] Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults> [Accessed 23 March 2020].

Mental Health Foundation. 2020. Looking After Your Mental Health During The Coronavirus Outbreak. [online] Available at: <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak> [Accessed 18 March 2020].

nhs.uk. 2020. Coronavirus (COVID-19). [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/> [Accessed 18 March 2020].

Who.int. 2020. Advice For Public. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public> [Accessed 18 March 2020].