Last updated on 20/05/2020


The impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has touched everyone. Fortunately, people with asthma haven’t been too impacted, representing fewer overall cases and a smaller proportion of those with complications from COVID-19 than people without asthma. Whilst this is a welcome situation, it’s important we don’t get complacent as we move into winter.

For people with asthma, there are a range of respiratory viruses which are triggers for their symptoms and serious complications. As we’ve seen during COVID-19, respiratory viruses can be controlled with the right behaviour and good choices.

  • Practice good hygiene
  • Wash hands regularly, especially after being in public and shared spaces
  • Get the recommended flu vaccine this season
  • Have a current written Asthma Action Plan
  • Take your preventer medication as prescribed even when well
  • Have adequate medication at home
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell
  • Practice the physical distancing and limitations in gatherings recommended by the Department of Health

Common colds, influenza and asthma

Asthma Australia Senior Educator Gemma Crawley says respiratory viruses can have a significant impact on the airways of people with asthma.

They can increase redness and irritation of their sensitive airways.

“A common cold or winter flu can lead to more severe asthma symptoms or flare-ups, which may result in a visit to the hospital’s emergency department,” she says.

“People with asthma should take extra precautions to try and prevent getting sick this winter, through having an asthma review with their doctor, discussing preventer options if indicated, practicing good hygiene, and getting the seasonal flu vaccine.”

Preventing colds, flus and viruses – which can help keep asthma symptoms at bay – is always the best option. In the past we haven’t talked about colds and viruses as being avoidable but our resilience during COVID-19 has given us a different message.

High hygiene standards and recent physical distancing efforts related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) have been proven effective in reducing the spread.

This means washing your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, avoiding spread by coughing and sneezing into your elbow or a tissue, staying at home if unwell – all habits we are strongly familiar with after weeks of physical distancing and isolation – all have the potential to reduce the spread of the regular winter respiratory viruses.

It is also strongly advised to obtain the season flu vaccine. You may be eligible under the National Immunisation Program Schedule, otherwise it is just a small price to reduce your risk of serious illness with the flu.

Additionally, following an up-to-date, written Asthma Action Plan with appropriate preventer and reliever medication use is also critical.

If your written Asthma Action Plan needs review, or you do not have one, now is the time to do it as it can lead to better asthma control.

When you should seek health care

In case you have fever, cough, shortness of breath and/or fatigue, it is recommended to visit your GP. Call ahead and discuss your symptoms openly and honestly with your doctor. They’ll keep you safe and investigate your illness as necessary.

Most of the time, your symptoms will be due to a common cold. Usually these illnesses can be managed at home. Occasionally you might experience breakthrough asthma symptoms. In these cases, follow the instructions on your written Asthma Action Plan and use your reliever to treat your symptoms.

Check the following table to compare symptoms of COVID, flu and common cold here.

Up-to-date information about COVID-19 and asthma in Australia can be found here. General COVID-19 information can be accessed via the Australian Government Health website.

If you would like to speak with an Asthma Educator, contact 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) or book a call back via our website.




 AirPhysio is a partner of Asthma Australia. AirPhysio has not been involved in the development of this article.