Coronavirus Support Group Logo

Coronavirus (COVID-19) health advice for people with asthma

ADVICE FROM ASTHMA UK and the AAFA

PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU HAVE USEFUL UPDATES

Coronavirus (COVID-19) health advice for people with asthma

You might be wondering what coronavirus means for you, or your child if they have asthma.

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

To reduce your risk of 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 blue reliever inhaler with you every day, in case you feel your asthma symptoms flaring up.
  • Visit Asthma UK’s excellent website and Download and use an asthma action plan to help you recognise and manage asthma symptoms when they come on.
  • If you come down with flu, a cold, or any other respiratory infection, follow Asthma UK tips for looking after your asthma when you’re not well.

If more advice about coronavirus for people with asthma is released, we will update it.

As well as taking care of your asthma, there are some straightforward steps everyone can take to lower the risk of getting and spreading coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water.
  • Use tissues to wipe your nose or catch sneezes, and then bin them straight away.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands aren’t clean.
  • Follow this NHS advice if you have just come back from an at-risk area, or if you’ve been in contact with someone who has coronavirus.
  • Follow the NHS advice to stay at home for seven days if you have a temperature and/or a new continuous cough. We know this advice may be confusing for people with asthma as many of you will get asthma coughs regularly. If you’re not sure what kind of cough it is, please speak to your GP or use the NHS online 111 service to make sure that if your asthma symptoms are getting worse you get the right treatment. 
  • Public Health England doesn’t recommend wearing a facemask. Some people with lung conditions say they find wearing a mask makes breathing more difficult.

Thinking ahead 

As the virus is predicted to spread further in the UK, the next step in slowing down the spread would be people taking steps to reduce their contact with others, for example by avoiding crowded spaces. It would be a good idea for people with long-term lung conditions – including asthma – to start thinking about how they would manage in this situation. Examples might include discussing arrangements to work from home with your employer. At the moment, this is not the guidance for people with lung conditions, but it is wise to prepare for what may happen next. We will continue to update our online information as we get more guidance from the NHS.

You should also make plans to help you cope if the spread of the virus causes significant disruption, or if you are asked to self-isolate. This might include making sure you know how you would get your medicines, food and other essential items if you had to self-isolate, and thinking about how you would stay in touch with friends and family.

Please see the NHS advice on staying at home for more information. 

What to do if your asthma is getting worse

If your asthma is getting worse and there’s a risk you might have coronavirus, please use the NHS 111 online service or call 111. DO NOT go to your doctor’s surgery.

When you contact 111:

  • Let them know that you have asthma and that you’re getting asthma symptoms.
  • Explain how often you are using your reliever inhaler and if it’s not working completely or lasting for 4 hours.
  • Follow the instructions given to you by 111.
  • If your symptoms get worse quickly and you’re worried you are having an asthma attack, call 999 and let them know you may have coronavirus and are having an asthma attack. See Asthma UK’s asthma attack advice for more information.

If your asthma is getting worse and you haven’t been to the high-risk areas or been in contact with someone who has coronavirus, make an urgent appointment to see your GP as usual. If you have an asthma attack, follow the steps on your action plan and call 999 for an ambulance if you need to.

Help if you’re feeling anxious

Some people with asthma are telling us they feel anxious and worried about coronavirus. The Mental Health Foundation has produced a great list of tips to help people cope with anxiety (click link or use our Menu above). Ideas include:

  • Making sure you’re looking after yourself, so you feel more able to cope with whatever happens.
  • 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.
To conclude:

 

Asthma UK hope you have found this content useful.

Their 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.

Record numbers of people now need their support. As a charity their help and advice are only possible thanks to kind donations from people like you.

If you can and are able, you can donate to Asthma UK now by going direct to their website with this link below.

FAQs on Coronavirus (COVID-19) health advice for people with asthma

NOTE:  These FAQs are based on answers given by Mitchell Grayson, M.D., FAAAAI, FACAAI, allergist/immunologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and chair of AAFA’s Medical Scientific Council. He answered frequently asked questions many people with asthma have about COVID-19.  With acknowledgments to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

Are people with asthma at higher risk of contracting Coronavirus COVID-19?

Current advice suggest not. Data is still developing and this position may change.

Are people with asthma at higher risk of poorer outcomes?

So far, there has been little information on people with asthma with COVID-19. There has been at least one publication suggesting no effect of COVID-19 on asthma. But, it is important to note that there are several other coronaviruses that normally circulate and cause cold/flu like symptoms. These viruses have been shown to cause asthma episodes or attacks. So, whether COVID-19 can cause asthma episodes or attacks remains to be seen.

Are people with asthma at higher risk of poorer outcomes?

Wearing a mask will provide only slight protection. It is more important to wash your hands often, ideally with soap and water for 20-30 seconds. But if soap and water are not available, then hand sanitizer is okay. The WHO and CDC want to use masks to prevent the spread of the virus from those already infected (or those who have continued close contact with an infected person).

Having everyone wear masks will deplete our supply of masks making it hard for the health care systems to get them. In health care settings, they are needed daily – not just for COVID-19 but for many respiratory infections too.

Should people with asthma wear a disposable face mask when in public areas?

Not really. The more important things to do are:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often
  • Avoid people who are coughing/sneezing and have cold like symptoms
  • Make sure you take your medicine and get your asthma under best control
  • Get the seasonal influenza vaccine, if you have not.

If a person with asthma gets a fever and a cough, what should they do?

Treat your asthma as your doctor has told you and give them a call. Most likely it is not COVID-19, but it is important to let them know about your illness. If possible (and I encourage this), avoid going to work or school (or any public places) when you have a fever so you do not spread your illness.
 

Some people have concerns about the steroids in their asthma inhalers weakening their immune systems. What should people know about inhaled corticosteroids  or oral corticosteroids?

You need to make sure your asthma is under control. This often requires the use of inhaled corticosteroids (and sometimes oral corticosteroids). Inhaled corticosteroids do not likely reduce your immune system’s ability to fight infections, but oral corticosteroids may. It is important to use the steps above to protect yourself to limit your exposure to any respiratory virus.

What are your recommendations for people aged over 60 with asthma on how to avoid coronavirus COVID-19 or other respiratory diseases?

The recommendations are the same as mentioned above. If you are in the at-risk group, you may want to limit your exposure to public areas where many people gather. This applies to COVID-19 but also to other spreading respiratory viruses. I would also recommend not shaking hands, kissing people, etc. This will limit the likelihood of getting a virus from them. If possible, stay at least 5 to 10 feet away from anyone who shows symptoms of a cold – although many people with COVID-19 are actually infectious before they show any symptoms.

Do you recommend that people with asthma stock up on extra supplies?

I always recommend that people with asthma have a supply of their medicines. Nothing I’ve seen with COVID-19 would suggest to me that you need extra supplies. I would suggest you have enough medicines for a 14-day quarantine, if that were to happen.  I don’t think having a large stash of medicine on hand will be helpful.
And it will limit the amount of drugs available to other people. If you
want to be safe, have a 30-day supply on hand. There is no need for more
than that.

Do antihistamines suppress the immune system?

Antihistamines do not suppress the immune system. There is no reason to think they would increase your chances of getting a virus or a bacterial infection.

Should people with asthma start social distancing?  And does it make a difference if we live in the city or the countryside?

Social distancing is always a good idea for everyone during the peak of cold and flu season. At this point, I do not see anything that calls for staying home from work or school. For large crowds, assess the risk based on where you live and the number of cases in the area. For example, if I was in the Seattle area – where the majority of the U.S. deaths and cases have occurred – I might avoid going to a concert. But if I was in a state where no cases have been found yet, I would be less concerned. But I still recommend not shaking hands. And try to stay 3 to 6 feet away from anyone who shows symptoms of an upper respiratory illness.

 

Is it safe for people with asthma to fly on planes?  Or should they cancel their trips?

Flying on planes is probably safe. The airlines are going to extremes to clean their planes. The air on the planes is circulated through HEPA filters that will remove virus particles. But the government has suggested that elderly travelers (over age 60) should try to avoid long flights. They did not define “long.” The biggest risk of getting any illness on a plane comes from the people in the row in front and behind you, and those right beside you. I would recommend sitting in a window seat. Ask to be reseated if someone in the row in front or behind or next to you appears ill. Think about bringing antiseptic wipes to wipe down your armrests, tray table, headrest and other areas you will be touching.

Have recommendations changed for people over age 60 with asthma?

At this point recommendations have not changed for people age over age 60 with asthma.
As mentioned above, the government is suggesting that people over age 60
avoid long flights and cruises. Actually, they have suggested everyone
avoid cruises because of the risk of quarantine more than anything else.