Last updated on 17/03/2020

As of 9 April 2020

For latest Coronavirus and Asthma information please visit our COVID-19 page.

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

There is no reason to think that people with asthma are more likely than others to contract Coronavirus.   

In case a person with asthma contracts Coronavirus they may be more likely to develop a serious illness if they are over the age of 50, have severe asthma and/or identify as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person. 

The primary point is to do what you can, as you usually would to avoid cold and flu; pay close attention to personal hygiene, wash hands regularly, avoid close contact with people with symptoms and obtain a flu vaccination as soon as possible. In addition to the prevention recommendations on the Australian Department of Health website, you can find helpful information on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website here. 

What can you do to be prepared? 

  • Ensure you are on a preventer, taking it as prescribed and have a written Asthma Action Plan. You can go back to your GP at any time if you think your medication needs adjusting or if you don’t have a written Asthma Action Plan. 
  • Ensure you have access to a reliever puffer, always 
  • Ensure you can identify asthma symptoms and can treat them properly; do you know asthma first aid? 
  • Ensure you understand what your asthma triggers are and how to manage these (it will help to have a written Asthma Action Plan). 
  • If you have allergies such as hay fever, ensure you are treating them 
  • Tell your family and friends you have asthma and make sure they also know asthma first aid and your triggers 

You can ask us questions by emailing, calling 1800 ASTHMA or contacting us online.

If I become unwell what should I do? 

If you have been overseas in the last 14 days and are feeling unwell, see a doctor immediately. Call the doctor ahead so they can prepare for your visit. 

If you have cough/cold/flu like symptoms and fever, see a doctor quickly.  

If you have any of these symptoms and difficulty breathing, see your doctor urgently or attend your closest emergency department if you can’t be seen by your doctor right away. 

If you have asthma, follow the instructions in your Written Asthma Action Plan. This will remind you of what to do in case you experience asthma symptoms. 

If you do become unwell follow your asthma action plan and if you continue to experience symptoms visit your doctor (after calling ahead). If symptoms are severe, seek urgent medical care at your nearest emergency department. 

If you’re concerned and not sure if you need to see a doctor call the National Coronavirus Help Line on 1800 020 080. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.  

Are there any people who have contracted COVID-19 that have had asthma, what was their recovery like? 

We have not seen much data on people with asthma among people who’ve been ill with coronavirus but continue to engage with our expert advisors and investigate this on a daily basis. To the best of our knowledge people with asthma are not particularly vulnerable to coronavirus but we still recommend following the public health recommendations vigilantly, to continue to protect yourself and others. 

Should people with asthma start social distancing? 

The Australian Government has recommended, effective immediately, that all people, including people with asthma, are required to follow all public health directions. Most states have reinforced these directions and have started policing them. 

These directions include social distancing, self-isolation when required and strong personal hygiene. 

This includes limiting gatherings to two people and staying home at all costs except for essential needs. This includes people with asthma. 

You may like to consider preparing for further social distancing like talking to your employer about working from home. 

Why 14 days of isolation? 

COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days, or as long as 14 days after exposure. To be cautious, many governments are requiring an isolation period of 14 days.

What is home/self-isolation?

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, you must stay at home to prevent it from spreading to other people. You must also stay at home if you’ve recently returned from overseas or have had contact with a person known to have Coronavirus. 

Staying at home means you: 

  • do not go to public places such as work, school, shopping centres, childcare or university 
  • ask someone to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door 
  • do not let visitors in — only people who usually live with you should be in your home. 

You do not need to wear a mask in your home. If you need to go out to seek medical attention, wear a surgical mask (if you have one) to protect others. 

You should stay in touch by phone and on-line with your family and friends. Click here for more information on isolation. 

Should I get the flu shot?

Yes, Asthma Australia recommends that all people with asthma get the flu shot. The flu shot recommended by the Commonwealth Government in the National Immunisation Program for use in 2020 should be available currently. 

If you’d like to speak with an asthma educator about your asthma and concerns related to Coronavirus, contact 1800 ASTHMA

Should I wear a face mask to protect against infection? 

Current recommendations suggest that wearing a face mask is not required for those who are well and can restrict breathing for those with existing respiratory conditions. 

People who have symptoms and might be infected with COVID-19 are required to stay in isolation at home and should wear a surgical face mask when in the same room as another person and when seeking medical advice to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to anyone else. 

Health care workers who are caring for patients with suspected COVID-19 should use appropriate personal protective equipment to protect themselves against COVID-19. 

More effective prevention is to follow the general prevention advice i.e. wash your hands with soap and water for 20-30 seconds frequently, avoid people with symptoms, avoid large gatherings. View prevention techniques here. 

Should we stock up on our asthma medications? 

It is always wise to have an emergency kit prepared at home for any emergency situation including pandemics. However, in the case where you need to self-isolate, we suggest looking at a 30-day supply of asthma medication. Please note there is no need to excessively stockpile as this may contribute to shortages and over the counter limitations have been applied.

You are an essential worker with asthma, should you go to work?

We would recommend being very vigilant with social distancing and hygiene recommendations. Maintain distance, ensure your clients respect this also, practice regular hand hygiene, ensure clients are aware of the recommendations and their responsibilities. We would encourage you also to discuss your concerns with your employer. If deemed an essential service, then we would recommend your workplace provides suitable personal protective equipment.

If you are a health worker

Health workers should be working with their employers on ensuring all precautions are available and used to reduce the risk of transmission. Health services employ a range of infection control measures which include the use of personal protective equipment.

We also encourage all patients in these settings to play their part and follow instructions provided by health services and the health authorities to protect our front line staff as much as possible.

Do the steroids in my asthma inhaler weaken my immune system? 

There is no evidence to suggest that the corticosteroids in your preventer inhaler affect your immune system in any negative way.

Should I still use my inhaled corticosteroids?

You may have read the information that corticosteroids should be avoided for people with Coronavirus (COVID-19).

It is important to note this is referring to ORAL corticosteroids, and does not include INHALED corticosteroids. If you do become unwell with Coronavirus (COVID-19), keep taking your regular asthma preventer according to your prescription.

Inhaled corticosteroids are a key component of your asthma preventer medicine and help reduce the inflammation in your airways, as well as limit your vulnerability to triggers. It is critical that people prescribed inhaled preventers continue to use these to maintain their asthma control.

Do not take oral (systemic) steroids unless your doctor has advised you to do so, or it is included as part of your worsening plan for asthma on your written Asthma Action Plan. These medications act on your whole body, not just your lungs, and may slow down your recovery from the virus.

If you have concerns regarding oral corticosteroid use and Coronavirus COVID-19 please discuss these with your doctor.

Should I be taking my kids out of childcare or school? 

No, at this stage the Government recommends continuing essential daily activities including school and childcare. If your child is unwell, you should keep them home to avoid spreading their germs to others. If you have concerns, speak to the school directly to ensure they are putting in as many preventative measures as possible and practising good hand hygiene and social distancing.

If you have questions about the management of your child’s asthma, speak to your GP or contact 1800 ASTHMA. Your child’s preventer medication may need adjusting to cater for current conditions. Furthermore, ensure your child has an Asthma Action Plan and easy access to reliever medication either on person or via the school medical office or first aid room.

Should people with asthma travel? 

Overseas travel 

When you travel internationally, biosecurity measures at the airport and in-flight will apply to you. Travel restrictions and other arrangements also apply to people travelling overseas, returning to or visiting Australia.

You can view the latest travel advice here. 

Travel in general 

Before you travel:

  • Talk to your doctor before travelling with young children, babies or an elderly person; if you’re pregnant and anyone travelling with you has asthma.
  • Ask your doctor to update your Asthma Action Plan and write a letter outlining your history and severity of your asthma and treatment.
  • Read the travel advice for your destination, and for the countries, you need to transit through to get there and get home.
  • Check medical insurance
  • Do you have enough medication to manage your asthma or an asthma attack if one occurred
  • Ensure you have extra medication, scripts and extras are also carried in your hand luggage

Are you feeling worried, anxious or concerned about your mental health? 

If you or someone you know may have or has COVID-19, or are anxious about being in isolation and would you like to speak to someone about it?

Contact one of the services below for support or talk to your general practitioner.

Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14 or Lifeline Australia
A crisis support service that provides short term support at any time for people who are having difficulty coping or staying safe.

Kids Helpline: 1800 551800 or Kids Helpline
A free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counseling service for young people aged 5 to 25 years.

Additionally, Head to Health website provides links to trusted Australian mental health online and phone supports, resources and treatment options. It also has online programs and forums, as well as a range of digital information resources.

Read more about what Coronavirus (COVID-19) means for people with asthma here.