Coronavirus: What to be aware of if you have asthma

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PantherMedia / Craig Robinson

The severity of COVID-19 mainly depends on people’s age and whether they already have other medical conditions. Based on what is currently known, coronavirus infections are usually not more severe in people who have . It’s important to carry on taking your medication as usual.

Like COVID-19, is a respiratory (airway) disease. So it seems reasonable to assume that people who have might be especially vulnerable to COVID-19. This does not seem to be the case in most people, though.

Does asthma increase the risk of complications?

Only a few studies have looked into whether people who have are more likely to die of COVID-19 than similar people who do not have are. This is what is known so far:

  • People who have mild or moderate probably don't have a higher risk of dying of COVID-19, or the risk is only slightly higher.
  • People who have severe or aren't treating their well enough with medication could be somewhat more likely to become seriously ill if they get COVID-19. But more good research is needed to find out whether that is actually the case.
  • People with have a lower risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 than people who have diabetes, who are very overweight, or who have a weakened , for instance.

If someone who has gets pneumonia and needs to be ventilated, it can be difficult because their airways are already narrowed. You may have to stay in the hospital longer because the ventilation could take longer. That's another reason to make sure that your is as well controlled as possible.

What about the risks for children?

Most children with won't have a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. So far there haven't really been any studies looking into whether it is more dangerous in children with than in those who don't have . But because COVID-19 only becomes severe in very few children generally, this is probably true of children with as well.

Important: Continue taking your asthma medication!

It’s very important to keep on taking your medication, including steroids. They are help to prevent attacks. Coughing and shortness of breath may be caused by both and COVID-19. There's a greater risk of these symptoms being even worse if you become infected with COVID-19 and haven't been taking your medication.

There have been isolated claims that the use of steroid inhalers could weaken the immune system so much that it would increase the risk of developing more severe symptoms if you have a COVID-19 . But there's no to support this. Steroid inhalers hardly have any influence on the as a whole because the spray affects the lungs directly. Only very small amounts are absorbed by the rest of the body. There is also no research to suggest that steroid inhalers make the lungs more vulnerable, either.

It's important to carry on taking steroid tablets too. These tablets are only rarely used to treat anyway, and are usually only needed for a short time.

If you have allergic , there's no reason why you shouldn't continue or start allergen-specific immunotherapy (desensitization).

It is important to have enough medication on hand to keep up your therapy in case you have to remain in quarantine because you have COVID-19 or it is thought you might have it.

What if you think you have COVID-19?

The symptoms of and COVID-19 can be similar. Both illnesses may cause coughing and shortness of breath. The other symptoms that are typical of COVID-19 – such as fever, changes in your sense of taste or extreme tiredness – don't occur in , or only rarely do. If you have these typical coronavirus symptoms, it may be a good idea to get tested for COVID-19. You can find out more by consulting a testing center or a doctor.

Do you have to wear a mask if you have asthma?

You have to wear a mask to enter certain public spaces, such as shops or buses and trains. Some people who have feel nervous about wearing a mask. They think that wearing a mask could increase their risk of symptoms. But it's not clear whether a mask can trigger shortness of breath in people with : There is no good scientific research on this yet – and no official recommendations have been issued for people with . It’s best to consult a doctor if you have major problems with wearing a mask. For certain medical conditions, doctors may give you a note confirming that you don't need to wear a mask.

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Docherty AB, Harrison EM, Green CA, Hardwick HE, Pius R, Norman L et al. Features of 20 133 UK patients in hospital with covid-19 using the ISARIC WHO Clinical Characterisation Protocol: prospective observational cohort study. BMJ 2020; 369: m1985.

Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). COVID-19: GINA Answers to Frequently Asked Questions on asthma management March 25, 2020.

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Wang Z, Zheutlin AB, Kao YH, Ayers KL, Gross SJ, Kovatch P et al. Analysis of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the Mount Sinai Health System using electronic medical records (EMR) reveals important prognostic factors for improved clinical outcomes. May 4, 2020.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. informedhealth.org can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Created on July 16, 2020
Next planned update: 2021

Authors/Publishers:

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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