Woman using an inhaler

People with asthma might face a higher risk of serious illness if they contract the novel coronavirus and develop COVID-19. If you have asthma, you should take all precautions to avoid the virus and take steps to keep your asthma under control.

Actively taking these precautions should also help you to reduce stress, which can trigger an asthma attack.

Viruses Can Trigger an Asthma Attack

A viral infection can trigger an asthma attack, which will cause the airway to tighten, making it harder to breathe.

If the attack is mild, asthma symptoms (shortness of breath and coughing) can be treated at home, but if the attack is more serious, a person with asthma may need emergency treatments. These treatments may include oxygen, antibiotics and medications administered through a nebulizer.

If you experience severe symptoms, call 911 or go to the hospital. Hospitals are safe places to go for care. Delaying emergency care for any reason, including coronavirus fears, can make your condition worse or even be life-threatening. Learn more about when to go to the hospital in an emergency.

Antibiotics do not kill viruses, so they cannot cure COVID-19, but a doctor might prescribe antibiotics if a bacterial infection is also present in the lungs.

Follow Your Asthma Action Plan

An asthma action plan helps you recognize and manage asthma symptoms. This includes continuing with your current medications, such as short-acting rescue inhalers and long-acting inhalers with steroids. The plan also covers what to do in an emergency.

Don't stop taking any medications or change your asthma treatment plan without talking to your healthcare provider.

While in-person routine visits are, in many cases, being curtailed due to the pandemic, University of Maryland Medical System providers are caring for the needs of their patients via telemedicine and in-person visits, as needed. To learn more, call your healthcare provider or use MyPortfolio to make contact.

How to Protect From the Virus

The CDC has released new guidelines for people with asthma. While there isn't a specific vaccine or treatment to prevent COVID-19, there are best practices you can implement to avoid exposure to the virus:

  • Stay home as much as possible. If you have to go out, be sure you practice social distancing. And if you do have to go out for necessities, practice these grocery store safety tips.
  • Avoid sharing personal household items, such as cups and towels.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Stock up on supplies in the event you need to self-isolate (the recommendation is a 14- to 30-day supply).
  • Clean your hands often. Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

More Tips for Managing Asthma

Manage your stress.

Stress can inhibit your immune system, so try to avoid stressors whenever possible. Find time to relax and take breaks from watching or listening to the news. Frequent updates about the pandemic can be overwhelming and may cause undue anxiety.

Take special precautions at home.

When pollen counts increase, keep your windows closed to reduce exposure. Also, be careful with household cleaners, as the fumes may irritate your lungs. Learn more about how to tell the difference between allergies and coronavirus.

Check your inhaler supply.

Keep a bronchodilator, such as an albuterol inhaler, with you at all times in the event your asthma symptoms worsen. Doctors and pharmacies have seen a significant increase in requests for albuterol inhalers, so try to stock up on necessary medications.

Have a plan if you get sick.

Determine who could assist you if you were to get sick and had to treat coronavirus at home, and look for a way to have medications and food delivered to your home.