Asthma and COVID-19 (Coronavirus)(SARS-CoV-2)
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.
COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization. Others may experience more serious illness. Those who are at risk of developing more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19 are people:
- who are an older adult (increasing risk with each decade, especially over 60 years)
- of any age with chronic medical conditions, including:
- lung disease
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- kidney disease
- liver disease
- of any age who are immunocompromised, including those:
- with an underlying medical condition, such as cancer
- taking medications which lower the immune system, such as chemotherapy
- living with obesity, such as having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher
Research into whether asthma increases risk of infection or severe outcomes from COVID-19 is ongoing. A study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice (August 2021) found that people with well-controlled asthma have less severe COVID-19 outcomes than people with uncontrolled asthma.
Therefore, one of the best ways to stay healthy when you have asthma is to is to continue to keep your asthma in good control.
Recommendations for Canadians with Asthma
Asthma Canada recommends Canadians with asthma receive their full COVID-19 vaccination schedule. Vaccination is a routine part of proper asthma management. If you have any questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, please contact your healthcare provider to schedule an appointment to discuss.
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.
Asthma Canada recommends 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 Canadians with asthma continue wearing a mask indoors especially in poorly ventilated areas and when physical distancing may not be possible or proves to be challenging in crowded areas. If wearing a face mask is not possible, we recommend that individuals instead minimize exposure to indoor congregate settings.
- 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 COVID-19 vaccinations and 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
Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to protect our families, communities and ourselves against COVID-19. Evidence indicates that vaccines are effective at preventing serious outcomes, such as severe illness, hospitalization and death due to COVID-19. Read frequently asked questions about vaccinations for people with lung conditions.
For information on COVID-19 vaccination in your province or territory, please refer to your provincial or territorial website, listed below.
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Find a clinic offering vaccines near you with a national clinic locator: myvaccines.ca
It is also recommended that all Canadians aged six months and older receive an annual flu shot. The flu shot will not protect against COVID-19, but it will help reduce your risk of getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Having both could put you at risk for severe complications.
Read more about asthma and influenza.
Follow Public Health Measures
COVID-19 spreads from an infected person to others through respiratory droplets and aerosols (smaller droplets) created when an infected person:
COVID-19 can also spread by touching something that has the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands. You can transmit COVID-19 before you start showing symptoms or without ever developing symptoms.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, follow core public health measures:
- Get vaccinated
- Stay home if you are sick
- Clean your hands often
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth
- Cover your cough and sneeze
- Practice physical distancing:
- limit activities outside of the home
- When outside of the home, stay at least 2 meters (6 feet) away from other people whenever possible
- avoid closed and crowded spaces
- Wear a mask that completely covers your nose and mouth
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
- Avoid close contact with someone who is sick
- Stay informed and follow public health advice
The Government of Canada recommends the use of multiple personal preventive practices at once, regardless of your vaccination status. This is called a layered approach and it helps protect yourself and others.
Tips for Wearing a Face Mask with Asthma
From the letter: “Wearing a mask is an added layer of protection. The COVID-19 Respiratory Roundtable urges Canadians to continue wearing a mask indoors especially in poorly ventilated areas and when physical distancing may not be possible or proves to be challenging in crowded areas. If wearing a face mask is not possible, we recommend that individuals instead minimize exposure to indoor congregate settings.”
Follow local public health advice on when you should wear a mask. Masks may be required or recommended in public settings, such as:
- public transit
Be sure to check your provincial or territorial authority for up-to-date guidance.
Even if masks aren’t required in your area or the setting you’re in, wearing a mask is an added layer of protection. Whether you’re vaccinated or not, you should consider wearing one in shared spaces with people from outside of your immediate household. This is especially important indoors, whether in public or private settings.
Masks are strongly recommended in any crowded setting, including settings with vaccination requirements.
Different types of masks are available for public use. Non-medical masks, medical masks and respirators can all be used in the community.
In general, while non-medical masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, medical masks and respirators provide better protection. Fit is important for all types of masks.
Face masks can provide additional benefits for people with asthma, by blocking allergens like pollen and cold air, and other viruses, like influenza.
The vast majority of people with asthma can wear a mask safely. If you are unable to wear a mask without experiencing breathing difficulty, 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.
- 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.
- Never share your mask.
We understand you may have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, availability in Canada, and how it may affect people with asthma.
Asthma Canada recommends that Canadians with asthma receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Vaccination is a routine part of proper asthma management. If you have any questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, please contact your health care provider to schedule an appointment to discuss.
Read or watch medical experts answer common questions about COVID-19 vaccines:
COVID-19 Vaccines and Allergy
The Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI) notes that it is safe to proceed with vaccination for COVID-19, unless you have a pre-existing allergy to a component of the vaccine.
- Read Components of Vaccines Authorized by Health Canada
- Read CSACI’s COVID-19 Vaccines FAQ
Vaccine Distribution in Canada
Asthma Canada’s Advocacy
November 2021: Alongside other health organizations, Asthma Canada urges all provinces and territories in Canada to implement NACI’s recommendations for third dose of COVID-19 vaccine for moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals—like those with Severe Asthma—as quickly, clearly, and effectively as possible.
Read the letter (November 4, 2021)
January 2021: 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.
Links & Additonal Resources
- Read Asthma and COVID-19: scientific brief, 19 April 2021 from the World Health Organization
- Read Immunize Canada’s COVID-19 Education
- Information on COVID-19 vaccines including authorized vaccines, types of vaccines and on-going safety monitoring (Government of Canada)
- Q&A on vaccine safety (clinical trials related) from CanVax
- Global COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
We will continue to update this page as we learn more.
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 follow public health guidance on next steps.
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.
Is it safe for me to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes! It is safe for people with chronic lung diseases like asthma to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Even though COVID-19 vaccines are being developed more quickly than usual, vaccine safety is still a top priority in all phases of vaccine development, approval and post-approval monitoring. While steps are being streamlined or overlapped, none of them are being skipped.
To learn more about COVID-19 vaccine safety, visit COVID-19: Vaccine Safety and Side Effects
Source: Immunize Canada
I’m on biologic therapy. Can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. It is safe for people with asthma on biologic therapy to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The Canadian Thoracic Society and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology recommend that:
- The COVID-19 vaccine should not be administered on the same day as a biologic therapy for asthma where possible.
- Patients with asthma should ideally receive a COVID vaccine 72 hours apart from their regular biologic, to make it easier to tell what injection may have caused a problem if the patient has a reaction.
- Individuals with a history of reaction to injectable medications, or a previous COVID-19 vaccine must advise the staff at the vaccination site.
Source: Canadian Thoracic Society
How can I help my child with asthma stay safe during the pandemic?
It’s important that your child’s asthma remain in good control. A new study suggests that children with poorly controlled asthma are more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19.
- Develop or update a written Asthma Action Plan with your family doctor or healthcare provider and make sure to share a copy with your child’s school and teacher. If your child doesn’t currently have an Asthma Action Plan, make an appointment with their healthcare provider to create one as soon as possible. Ensure your healthcare provider reviews your child’s inhaler technique.
- Always ensure that your child has their reliever (rescue) medication on hand at all times.
- Ensure that your child takes their asthma controller medication throughout the year, even when symptom-free. Make sure you child is taking their asthma medications as prescribed and don’t stop unless advised by their healthcare provider to do so.
- If they are eligible, ensure your child receives their COVID-19 vaccinations.
- Identify your child’s asthma triggers and teach them how best to avoid them. Teach your child what to do in case of an asthma attack.
- Demonstrate correct hand washing technique and discuss the importance of frequent hand washing.
- Teach your children ways to cope with stress and anxiety as strong emotions and anxiety can trigger an asthma attack.
- Ensure your child, and everyone in your home, has received their influenza (flu) and pneumococcal disease vaccinations.
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!
Asthma & Allergy HelpLine
View our checklist of Red and Yellow Flags to help you recognize the signs of uncontrolled or Severe Asthma, so you know when to ask a specialist for help. Controlling your asthma is key to living a healthy and symptom-free life with asthma, and is vitally important.