Asthma Treatments for COVID-19

Asthma Treatments for COVID-19

Treatments are now available to treat COVID-19 in the community, including some asthma medicines. Many of these are designed for people who may be more likely to get severe COVID-19 illness and go to hospital. They must be used in the first few days of illness. When used early, these medicines can help prevent some people from developing more severe symptoms of COVID-19. You can speak to your doctor about your COVID-19 risk level to see if you qualify for these medicines.

Budesonide (Pulmicort) and Ciclesonide (Alvesco)

Budesonide (Pulmicort) and ciclesonide (Alvesco) are common inhalers that are also used as asthma preventers. They can also prevent some people from getting severe COVID-19 symptoms.   

For asthma, budesonide or ciclesonide are daily preventers that are continued long term. If you’re already using these medicines, DO NOT increase or adjust your prescription medicines such as your asthma preventer without advice from your doctor. Discuss with your doctor whether you need to adjust your dose if you contract COVID-19.  

If you need help using either of these medicines, you can call our Asthma Educators on 1800ASTHMA (1800 278 462). Even if you do not have asthma, we are happy to help! 

What are the benefits? 

  • Research showed that using these medicines in the first 14 days of COVID-19 infection probably reduced the need to go to hospital.  
  • If people taking these medicines did end up in hospital, these medicines probably helped reduce the severity of illness. The people who were using these medicines needed less extra oxygen than people who weren’t.   

What if I have asthma and already use a preventer? 

Current guidelines do not give exact instructions on how to prescribe budesonide or ciclesonide treatment for COVID-19 if you already take a preventer.   

Talk to your doctor about whether you need a new or additional medication if you already use an asthma preventer.  

Who may take it? 

Budesonide or ciclesonide are recommended for people more likely to get severe COVID-19 such as:  

  • Adults aged 65 years and over 
  • Adults aged 50 and over with one of the following conditions  
  • Asthma or lung disease  
  • Diabetes (not treated with insulin)  
  • Mild hepatic impairment 
  • Heart disease and/or hypertension 
  • Stroke or other neurological problem  
  • Weakened immune system due to a serious illness or medication (e.g. chemotherapy)  
  • Children and adolescents with risk factors for severe COVID-19 such as:  
  • Severe asthma  
  • Obesity  
  • Paediatric Complex Chronic Conditions (PCCC): congenital and genetic, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, malignancies, metabolic, neuromuscular, renal and respiratory conditions  

If you test positive for COVID-19 book an urgent telehealth consultation with your doctor to discuss your treatment options. 

Monoclonal Antibodies (Biologics) and Antiviral Agents  

Some monoclonal antibody (Mab) and antiviral medicines can help prevent severe illness from COVID-19 or treat more severe symptoms.   

Generally these drugs must be used within the first few days of illness, such as:  

  • Casirivimab plus imdevimab (Ronapreve®) – within the first 7 days of having symptoms 
  • Nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir (Paxlovid®) – within the first 5 days of having symptoms 
  • Molnupiravir (Lagevrio®) – within the first 5 days of having symptoms 
  • Remdesivir (Veklury®) – within the first 7 days of having symptoms 
  • Sotrovimab (Xevudy®) – within the first 5 days of having symptoms 
  • Tixagevimab plus cilgavimab (Evusheld®) – within the first 5 days of having symptoms 

These medicines are for people that are more likely to become very sick from COVID-19. This may include people that: 

  • Are older 
  • Are not fully vaccinated 
  • Have a weak immune system (due to a condition or medication) 
  • Have a medical condition that increases their risk of severe COVID-19 (including moderate or severe asthma) 
  • Live with a disability 
  • Live in residential aged care 
  • Identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 

Children in certain situations may take some of these medicines too. 

If this sounds like you, speak to your doctor as soon as you can. It may be a good idea to plan your treatment with your doctor before you get COVID-19. 

These treatments are not a substitute for vaccination. We know that vaccination, and especially getting boosted, is still your best protection against severe COVID-19. 

If you test positive for COVID-19 and think you are more likely to get severe COVID-19, book an urgent telehealth consultation with your doctor to discuss your treatment options. 

If you have COVID-19 and/or asthma symptoms, you can also see a respiratory doctor in person at a GP respiratory clinic, free of charge. To find a list of clinics in your state see:  https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/coronavirus-covid-19-gp-respiratory-clinics   

Last reviewed July 2022