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COVID-19 and Asthma

Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team

Updated on


  • Having asthma and COVID-19 can increase the chances of hospitalization
  • The risk is higher for those with moderate to severe asthma. If your asthma is mild and well-managed, you have the same risk as others without asthma.
  • It’s recommended to keep following your asthma action plan 

COVID-19 and asthma both cause symptoms of the respiratory system, which may give asthmatics doubts about whether they’re experiencing an asthma attack or an infection with the coronavirus. Studies also suggest that people with moderate to severe asthma are at risk of experiencing severe symptoms due to COVID-19. 

In this article, we’ll run you through the risk profile of asthma and COVID-19, discuss the difference between an asthma attack and symptoms of an infection with the coronavirus, and explain what to do if you get infected. 

Is asthma considered a high risk for COVID-19? 

Some people with asthma and COVID-19 may experience severe symptoms. This is especially the case for those with moderate to severe asthma. If your asthma is well-controlled, you’re not at a higher risk than the general population. However, 3 groups of people with asthma could have higher odds of hospitalization due to an infection with the coronavirus: 1

  • Those with non-allergic asthma
  • Those with severe and poorly managed asthma
  • Those with a weakened immune system due to high doses of steroids which they need to take for their asthma management

Your symptoms of COVID-19 could also be more severe if you have asthma combined with any of the other risk factors for severe illness due to the coronavirus, such as: 2 3

  • Being 65+
  • Suffering from other long-term lung conditions such as COPD or cystic fibrosis
  • Suffering from long-term conditions of the heart, the kidneys, the liver, or the brain
  • Diabetes (more information here about Covid-19 and Diabetes)
  • Obesity
  • A weakened immune system due to conditions such as AIDS, medical treatment, or a transplant 
  • Pregnancy

Many people with asthma who get COVID-19 experience persisting symptoms of COVID-19 and may have difficulties managing their asthma afterward. It’s essential to access the appropriate healthcare to treat these symptoms. 4

How to tell the difference between an asthma attack and COVID-19

COVID-19 and an asthma attack can present themselves with similar symptoms. The most common symptoms of asthma are: 5

  • Wheezing
  • Breathlessness
  • Coughing
  • A tight feeling in the chest

These same symptoms can be caused by COVID-19 as well, although they’re more likely to be asthma if they: 6

  • Happen regularly and keep coming back
  • Are worse at night and early in the morning
  • Mostly happen after being in touch with a trigger like an exercise or allergens such as pollen or animal fur
  • Happen during seasonal changes, as there are more allergens in the air related to tree and grass pollen

Find here more information about Covid vs allergy symptoms.

Asthma can worsen for a short period, known as an asthma attack. These attacks can happen suddenly or gradually worsen over a few days. If you’re having an asthma attack, you may experience: 7

  • Severe asthma symptoms
  • Signs of shortage of oxygen such as confusion, exhaustion, and blue lips or fingers
  • Fainting 

In case of these severe symptoms, we suggest that you immediately seek medical help. 

Typically, symptoms of the coronavirus can vary depending on which variant you’ve been infected with and your medical history. Overall, COVID-19 may cause a variety of symptoms that are less likely or notrelated to asthma, such as: 8

You can also notice the difference between asthma and COVID-19 based on the symptoms you’ve experienced in the past. If your current symptoms resemble those of an asthma attack you’ve experienced previously, then it’s more likely that you’ll be suffering from an asthma attack again. However, if your cough or chest tightness seems different, you may be infected with the coronavirus.

If you’re doubtful about whether you have COVID-19 or an asthma attack, then it’s recommended to get tested for an infection with the coronavirus. 

What about my asthma medication and COVID-19?

Having asthma and COVID together can especially lead to severe disease for those who take oral corticosteroids to treat their asthma. These are medications which suppress the immune system to help you control the symptoms of your asthma and prevent exacerbations. 

The function of the immune system is crucial as it enables your body to defend itself against viruses, such as the coronavirus. As such, it's highly suspected that oral corticosteroids may make it more difficult for the immune system to effectively attack the virus, ultimately increasing the risks of hospitalization and death. Some oral corticosteroids which may be used to treat asthma are: 9

  • Prednisolone
  • Fluticasone
  • Budesonide
  • Mometasone
  • Beclomethasone 10

Ciclesonide (Alvesco) 

The relationship between oral corticosteroids for asthma and COVID-19 has been continuously studied throughout the pandemic. In some cases, it’s suggested that corticosteroids may even improve the outcome of the disease for patients with severe COVID-19. It’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the best treatment approach. 11

If you’re worried that the medication you’re taking for your asthma may put you at a higher risk for COVID-19, or if you wish to change your medication, then it’s best to discuss this with your doctor. 

Should people with moderate to severe asthma take the COVID-19 vaccine? 

People with moderate to severe asthma are at a higher risk of getting hospitalized due to COVID-19. For this reason, getting the COVID-19 vaccine and keeping your vaccination status updated as a preventative measure is highly recommended. This vaccine will help your immune system decrease the virus present in your body if you become infected. 12

What to do if you have asthma and get COVID-19

If you have asthma and COVID-19, it’s important to follow a few guidelines to prevent severe illness: 13

  • You should keep your asthma under control by following your regular asthma action plan. You should not make changes to your medication without consulting with your healthcare provider first. 
  • Avoid asthma triggers, including exercise or allergens like dust, pollen, or animal fur. 
  • Make sure you have sufficient medication at home so that you’re able to treat your asthma for at least a month. Doing so gives you a supply in case you need to stay home for a long time. 
  • Be careful around cleaning agents and disinfectants, as they may trigger an asthma attack.
  • If you feel ill, talk to your healthcare provider for more information on alleviating your symptoms and ensuring your condition does not worsen. 
  • Try to cope healthily with the stress that you may be experiencing from finding out that you have COVID-19. Strong emotions can trigger an asthma attack. 
  • You can alleviate your symptoms at home using home remedies
  • Stay away from others to stop the spread of the coronavirus. However, telling someone you’re sick is advised so they can check up on you by telephone. 

Asthma and COVID-19: when should you go to the hospital?

Asthmatics with COVID-19 can experience severe symptoms. If your symptoms appear to be getting worse, you should seek immediate medical help. You should keep an eye out for these signs: 14

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure on the chest
  • Confusion
  • Inability to stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin

If you’ve noted any of these signs, or if you’re concerned about other symptoms that you’re experiencing, then you should call your healthcare provider as soon as possible. 

Wrapping up

COVID-19 and asthma have been the subject of much concern since the pandemic outbreak. The coronavirus can cause inflammation and narrowing of the airways, which can exacerbate existing asthma symptoms and lead to breathing difficulties. To avoid severe illness, it’s essential for people with asthma to take precautions, follow their asthma action plan, and work closely with their healthcare provider. 


Q: Are people with asthma at a higher risk of COVID-19?
A: People with moderate to severe or poorly managed asthma are at a higher risk of severe symptoms due to COVID-19. If your asthma is mild and well-controlled, you have the same risk as others. 

Q: Do people with asthma survive COVID-19?
A: People with asthma usually survive COVID-19. However, those with moderate to severe or poorly managed asthma are at risk of developing severe symptoms which may lead to hospitalization or death, so it’s very important to take precautions and get the correct medical treatment early after an infection.

Q: Does asthma affect COVID-19?
A: If you have moderate to severe asthma, the odds of experiencing severe symptoms or being hospitalized increase significantly. 

Q: What to do if you have COVID-19 and asthma? 
A: If you have asthma and you get COVID-19, you should contact your healthcare provider for treatment options that fit your personal situation. Following your asthma action plan and avoiding things that may trigger an asthma attack is recommended. 

Q: What can I take for COVID-19 if I have asthma? 
A: If you want to relieve your symptoms of COVID-19, it’s recommended to ask your healthcare provider about which medication you may take, as some painkillers may trigger symptoms for asthmatics.