ALERT: What people with asthma and allergies need to know about the new coronavirus (COVID-19)

A new respiratory illness is spreading throughout the world. Learn about your risk and how to protect yourself and family.


Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections include the common cold, the flu, pneumonia, COVID-19 (the new coronavirus) and other infections. These common illnesses can affect your lungs when you have asthma. They can cause inflammation (swelling) and narrowing of your airways. These changes could trigger asthma symptoms (an asthma episode or an asthma attack).

Respiratory illness is a common asthma trigger
Respiratory illnesses are a common asthma trigger, especially in children

What Do I Do If I Have a Respiratory Illness?  

It’s always important to keep your asthma under control. It is particularly important when you’re sick.

  • Follow your Asthma Action Plan. Be sure that your asthma action plan tells you what to do in case of illness. If you get flu-like symptoms, see your doctor right away.
  • Talk with your doctor about what over-the-counter medicines to use for a respiratory infection.
  • Keep your quick-relief medicine with you at all times to treat asthma symptoms.
  • Call your doctor if you have any symptoms that concern you.
  • Call 911 immediately if you have any of these danger signs:
    • Trouble walking or talking due to shortness of breath
    • Blue or gray lips or fingernails
    • Fast breathing with chest retractions (skin sucks in between or around the chest plate and/or rib bones when inhaling)
    • Other signs of a severe asthma attack

How Can I Prevent Respiratory Infections? 

Viruses cause most respiratory infections. The flu and pneumococcal disease can be especially serious for people with asthma. To lower your chance of getting sick, take these steps:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Get a yearly flu vaccine.
  • Get the pneumococcal vaccine. You should only need the vaccine once, with a booster as needed.
  • Keep your breathing equipment clean. This includes your asthma inhaler, nebulizer and nebulizer tubing, and mouthpiece.
  • Do not share your breathing equipment or medicines with others.

Stay healthy and prevent asthma attacks by washing your hands

Talk to your health care provider about your asthma and your triggers. Be sure to discuss any changes in your asthma management.


Medical Review October 2015.