Asthma and COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
You might be wondering what COVID-19 means for you, or your loved ones with asthma. When people with asthma get respiratory infections, it can trigger their asthma symptoms. Most people recover from COVID-19 after a period of rest, that may extend up to 14 days. In some, it can be more severe and, in rare cases, life-threatening. People of all ages can be infected by the virus, so it is important to take steps to protect yourself.
Asthma Canada recommends that Canadians with asthma ensure they renew or refill their asthma prescriptions with a 30-day supply so that they don’t run out of medication, should they become ill.
Asthma Canada recommends that Canadians with asthma continue to take their prescribed asthma medications unless their healthcare provider has advised otherwise. Stopping medication use may cause adverse health effects and is not recommended unless directed by your healthcare professional. Do not stop or modify your asthma medications because of concern about COVID-19. This includes biologics. Biologics used to treat asthma do not have the same immuno-suppressing effects like biologics to treat other types of illnesses.
- Keep taking your controller medication daily or as prescribed. This will help cut your risk of an asthma attack being triggered by any respiratory virus, including COVID-19.
- Carry your reliever inhaler with you every day, in case your asthma symptoms flare up.
- Monitor your asthma symptoms closely and follow your Asthma Action Plan to help you recognize and manage asthma symptoms, and know when to seek advice from your healthcare provider or emergency help.
- If you must travel, pack all asthma medications in your carry-on luggage so it is easily accessible. Pack extra asthma medication in case your travel plans change or are delayed. Be sure to check travel advice and advisories from the Government of Canada’s website.
- Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest and fluids, and eat good nutritious food.
- Ensure that you speak with your healthcare provider about recommended vaccinations. Getting both the influenza vaccination (flu-shot) and pneumococcal disease vaccination are important steps people with asthma can take to help stay healthy.
- Reach out to Asthma Canada’s Asthma & Allergy HelpLine call-back service to connect with a Certified Respiratory Educator if you have questions about managing your asthma. Call 1-866-787-4050 or email email@example.com
- Practice social distancing/self-monitoring/self-isolation/isolation as directed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds.
- Wear a non-medical grade face mask when you are in public places and in situations where you are not able to maintain physical distancing, like on public transportation or the grocery store.
- Avoid closed spaces, crowded places, and close contact.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as toys, phones and door handles.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, ears or mouth.
- Stay home if you are sick. Encourage those you know who are sick to stay home until they no longer have symptoms.
- Avoid contact with people who are unwell.
- Make sure that you get high-quality information about COVID-19 from reliable sources. The Public Health Agency of Canada is a reliable source of information, as are provincial and territorial public health authorities.
Tips for Wearing a Face Mask with Asthma
The Public Health Agency of Canada currently recommends that Canadians wear non-medical face masks while in public spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained – such as on public transit, or at the grocery store.
Be sure to check your provincial or territorial authority for up-to-date guidance.
Wearing a face mask is NOT a substitute for physical distancing or frequent handwashing. Wearing a non-medical face mask is an extra measure that can be taken to protect those around you. When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask can reduce the spread of their own infectious respiratory droplets.
Make sure you wear your mask properly. It should cover both your nose and mouth. If your mask gets soiled or wet, be sure to wash and dry it before wearing it again. You can read information about appropriate use of non-medical masks, and how to properly place, remove and clean a non-medical mask from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The vast majority of people with asthma can wear a non-medical mask safely. If you are unable to wear a non-medical mask without experiencing breathing issues, do not wear a mask. Instead, make sure you are practicing physical distancing by maintaining a 2-metre distance. Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to go over your Asthma Action Plan and review your asthma symptoms and control. Your healthcare provider may suggest or ask you to consider other options to protect yourself.
Each individual’s asthma is unique, and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Adjust to wearing a non-medical mask when you have asthma:
- Wear a mask around your home for approximately 20 minutes to give yourself time to adjust to how it feels.
- There is no recommended “best type of mask” for people with asthma. Experiment with different types of mask materials and styles. Some masks fit more snugly than others, and some materials may feel more comfortable.
- Plan your trip in advance by writing a list of items/errands, so you complete your trip as efficiently as possible.
- Try to go out during cooler periods of the day.
- Carry a spare mask or face covering.
- Never share your mask or face covering.
We understand you may have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, its availability in Canada, and how it may affect people with asthma.
Asthma Canada supports the Global Initiative for Asthma’s interim guidance about COVID-19 and asthma which recommends COVID-19 vaccination for people with asthma. Read the statement below for more information.
- Interim Guidance from the Global Initiative for Asthma: GINA Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention (December 2020)
National, Provincial and Territorial COVID-19 Vaccine Information Sources
Vaccine Distribution in Canada
As part of the Canadian Thoracic Society’s COVID-19 Respiratory Roundtable panel representing Canadians living with lung disease, Asthma Canada signed a joint statement titled Prioritization of Canadians with Lung Disease in COVID-19 Vaccination Rollout. Alongside other lung health organizations, Asthma Canada is urging federal, provincial and territorial governments to prioritize people living with lung disease who are at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 complications in the vaccination rollout. From Canadians living with a lung disease such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, and pre- and post-lung transplant, there is widespread concern regarding when in the vaccine rollout in the provinces and territories they will have the opportunity to receive the vaccine.
We will continue to advocate for our community on this subject and will share more information as it becomes available.
COVID-19 Vaccine and Allergy
Statement from Asthma Canada’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee Chair, Dr. Susan Waserman, MDCM, MSc, FRCPC, c/o the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health:
Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines may be given to individuals with any history of allergy including anaphylaxis. However, individuals with anaphylaxis should be observed for 30 minutes after vaccination.
We will continue to update this page as we learn more. Links to sources of credible information about the COVID-19 vaccine are listed below.
- Guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization on the prioritization of initial vaccine doses
- Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine: What you should know (Government of Canada)
- Information on COVID-19 vaccines including authorized vaccines, types of vaccines and on-going safety monitoring (Government of Canada)
- Q&A with Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s Medical Scientific Council about the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine (American source)
- Q&A on vaccine safety (clinical trials related) from CanVax
- Questions and answers about vaccines from Immunize Canada (general info)
- Global COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
With answers from Canadian medical professionals.
Sometimes my asthma leaves me short of breath. How do I know it's not COVID-19?
Remember that asthma symptoms can flare up for a number of reasons, like seasonal allergies or an infection. You may be experiencing asthma symptoms due to an increased exposure to indoor triggers, simply because you are spending more time indoors.
Respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19 are very similar to asthma symptoms, like shortness of breath and cough. Evolving research indicates that the symptom which differentiates asthma from COVID-19 is experiencing a “new” fever. Fever has been most common of any symptom to date in confirmed cases of COVID-19.
If you experience a sudden fever in addition to respiratory symptoms, you should immediately self-isolate and contact your healthcare provider right away for further advice.
I've heard that some medications put you more at risk for complications from COVID-19. Should I stop taking my medication?
No, DO NOT stop taking your medications as prescribed by your healthcare professional.
Stopping or modifying your medications without consulting your healthcare provider due to concern about COVID-19 is dangerous.
Right now, it is very important that you keep your asthma well controlled, and sticking to the treatment plan prescribed by your healthcare provider is a crucial part of this process. This means ALL asthma medications, including biologics.
I'm worried I'll run out of medication. Should I stock up?
Both the Canadian Pharmacists Association and Asthma Canada recommend that Canadians with asthma have a 30-day supply of medication on hand, should they become ill and are unable to visit a pharmacy or healthcare provider to obtain more medication.
The Canadian Pharmacists Association does not recommend more than a 30-day supply of medication (unless clinically justified) so that all Canadians can access the medication they need.
They state: “As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to evolve, pharmacists are becoming increasingly mindful about the need to carefully manage our drug supply to weather some of the long-term impacts of the disease across the globe. Canadians rely on their medications and pharmacists are working to make sure that every patient has access to their medications when they need it.”
Read their full statement here.
Should I make changes to how I manage my asthma during the pandemic?
No, the current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) does not require any change to what is normal good asthma control practices. People with asthma should be on a daily controller medication, so that they do not need to over rely on reliever medications. All people living with asthma should have and follow a written Asthma Action Plan and know how to use their medications accordingly.
You can use these resources to find out if your asthma is controlled:
I have a specific question about my asthma. Is there someone I can talk to?
If you have questions about your asthma, you can contact Asthma Canada’s Asthma & Allergy HelpLine free call-back service. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-787-4050 to be connected with a Certified Respiratory Educator.
*Please note we are experiencing slightly longer than normal response times, but will be sure to get back to you as soon as possible.
You can make a difference!
The Asthma Canada team, including our Certified Respiratory Educators are working tirelessly to provide the most up to date education and support regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) to the asthma community.
Canadians with asthma are depending on us now more than ever. We are only able to do the work that we do thanks to the generosity of incredible people like you. If you are able to, please consider a donation to support our mission during this time. Thank you!