Asthma and Covid

If you suffer from Asthma, any respiratory infection can be a cause for concern as it could worsen your symptoms or trigger an asthma attack. While you're not at a higher risk of catching Covid if you have asthma, it can make your symptoms worse, and it can put you at a higher risk of serious illness when you're infected.

Read to find out more about how Covid affects asthmatics, what symptoms to look out for, and how to protect yourself from infection.

How Does Covid Affect Asthmatics?

Asthmatics do not have a higher risk of getting COVID-19. However, if you have severe or poorly controlled asthma, you are more likely to require hospital treatment if you do get Covid. If your asthma is mild and/or well controlled, you still have a higher risk of serious illness compared to someone without non-allergic asthma, but this is only slightly higher.Therefore, to reduce the risk of a severe COVID-19 infection, it is important to manage your asthma symptoms carefully.

A review of studies suggests that people with mild or well controlled asthma are not significantly more likely to die from COVID-19.

Does a Covid infection make asthma worse?

You might feel worse if you have asthma and get COVID-19. This is because both conditions can cause breathing problems. However, research does not suggest that you are more likely to have an asthma attack while you have Covid. Instead, this depends more on the type of asthma you have and whether you are controlling it properly.

Coronavirus or an Asthma Attack?

Some symptoms of COVID-19, such as breathlessness and coughing, are similar to asthma. But tiredness, changes to your sense of taste and smell, and high temperature are not normally part of an asthma attack. It is more likely they are related to a COVID-19 infection.

Coughing due to asthma usually comes with wheezing, whereas normally a COVID-19 cough does not.

If you are unsure whether your cough is asthma or COVID-19 related, you should consider:

  • whether you have other COVID-19 symptoms, such as a high temperature, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, feeling sick or tiredness
  • whether you have had contact with someone who has COVID-19
  • whether your cough is more persistent than usual
  • whether any mucus you’re producing is different than normal when coughing

COVID-19 symptoms vs. asthma attack symptoms

Symptoms of COVID-19 in adults and children can include:

  • a high temperature, shivering, or fever
  • a new, persistent cough
  • a change or loss of sense of taste or smell
  • breathlessness
  • tiredness or exhaustion
  • aching
  • headaches
  • a sore throat
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • a lower appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting or nausea

These symptoms are similar to a cold or a flu. Therefore, testing yourself for COVID-19 is important.

By comparison, symptoms of a severe asthma attack include:

  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • severe and constant tightness in your chest
  • breathlessness that stops you eating, speaking, or sleeping
  • rapid breathing
  • fast heartbeat
  • feeling drowsy, exhausted, confused, or dizzy
  • blue fingers or lips
  • fainting

Long Covid and Asthma

Most people make a full recovery from Covid within 12 weeks, but symptoms can last for weeks or months after the infection passes for some people. This is known as ‘long Covid’.

Long Covid symptoms include:

  • tiredness
  • breathlessness
  • tightness or pain in your chest
  • concentration or memory problems, also known as ‘brain fog’
  • problems sleeping
  • dizziness
  • pins and needles
  • pain in your joints
  • tinnitus
  • earache
  • heart palpitations
  • depression and anxiety
  • nausea and diarrhoea
  • stomach ache
  • a lower appetite
  • a high temperature or fever
  • persistent cold like symptoms

If you have asthma and you are recovering from COVID-19, it is important that you know whether you are experiencing asthma symptoms or long Covid related symptoms.

Asthma is more likely to:

  • cause wheezing
  • cause changes in your peak flow score
  • get better after using your reliever inhaler

When recovering from COVID-19, you must treat your asthma as normal. If asthma symptoms get worse, follow your asthma action plan and contact your GP or 111. If you are having serious difficulty breathing and your reliever inhaler is not helping, call 999 for emergency medical care.

Am I at a higher risk of getting Long Covid?

The evidence is still limited at this stage, but one study published in 2022 found that people with asthma had a higher risk of experiencing Covid symptoms for 4 weeks or more.

What should I do if I get long Covid?

If you are experiencing long Covid symptoms 4 weeks or more after having COVID-19 (or after you think you had COVID-19), you should contact your GP. They will be able to provide advice and work on a treatment plan for you to manage your symptoms.

Asthma and the Covid Vaccine

Covid infections can cause severe complications in those who have asthma, so it is important that you protect yourself against it.

In the UK, two primary doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are available to all adults, and children over 5. Some people at higher risk can get a third primary dose.

Booster vaccines give extra protection against COVID-19. One booster vaccine is available to all people over 16. Some children between 12 and15 years old can get a booster if they are at high risk from COVID-19.

Those over 75, people with immunosuppression, and those living in care homes for older people are eligible for a secondary booster 6 months after the first one.

Should people with asthma get the Covid vaccine?

Yes, you should get a Covid vaccine if you have asthma. Asthmatics are at a higher risk of serious Covid infections, and the best way to protect yourself against Covid is to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated reduces the risk of severe illness and hospital admission due to COVID-19.

Is the Covid vaccine safe for asthmatics?

Yes, covid vaccines are safe for people with lung conditions. All vaccines have to meet strict safety, quality, and effectiveness standards to be approved. However, the Covid vaccine can have side effects for some people and affect you differently if you have other health conditions. More information on health conditions and COVID-19 is available on the NHS website. If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a vaccination, you should ask your GP before getting the vaccine.

How effective are COVID-19 vaccines?

COVID-19 vaccines are the most effective way to protect you and other people from coronavirus. Getting two doses and a booster reduces the likelihood that you will need to go to hospital.

Vaccines help to:

  • reduce the chances of serious illness or death related to COVID-19
  • reduce the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19
  • protect you against variant forms of COVID-19

What Should I do if I Catch COVID-19?

If you catch COVID-19 you should:

  • stay at home and avoid contact with other people for a minimum of 5 days until you feel well again
  • you should avoid contact with anyone with a suppressed immune system for a minimum of 10 days
  • manage your COVID-19 symptoms by resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking paracetamol
  • if you live alone, ask someone to check on you every day, ideally while socially distancing

How do I treat asthma when I have COVID-19?

If you have asthma, it is important you continue to treat it as normal while you have COVID-19. Follow your asthma action plan as usual to step up your treatment if you need to. You should also use your inhaler as normal, as it will help protect you from asthma symptoms. If you have a peak flow meter, using it regularly can help you to monitor your asthma. Speak to your GP or asthma nurse if you have any questions.

You should wash your hands before using inhalers or taking medicines, and wash asthma equipment such as spacers, mouthpieces, and peak flow meters regularly.

If you have severe asthma and use biologics or a nebuliser, you can continue to use it unless you are told otherwise by your doctor or asthma specialist. They can also help you get any asthma treatments you would normally get at a hospital.

If your asthma symptoms get worse, use your reliever inhaler and spacer, and follow your asthma attack plan.

If you are worried about your symptoms, call 111. If you are having serious difficulties breathing, call 999 for emergency help.


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