Do you have questions about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and what it may mean for you or someone you know who has asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers. We will continue to update this as more information is released.

Should you have any other questions regarding COVID-19 or would like to discuss your asthma or COPD with one of our Respiratory Health Nurses or Educators, please give us a call on (08) 9289 3600, or email us at  ask@asthmawa.org.au to book your free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have asthma:

  • Keep taking your usual medications as prescribed. Make an appointment to see your doctor to review your asthma if you still have asthma symptoms. Do not wait until you are unwell, get control now
  • Always carry your reliever medication with you
  • Check your asthma medications are in date as well
  • Check that your other asthma equipment such as your spacer is in good working order. If unsure, speak to your local pharmacist or doctor
  • Review your Asthma Action Plan and visit your doctor if it needs updating
  • Keep up to date with your vaccinations
  • Talk to your doctor about getting your flu and COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Download our ‘Take Control of your Asthma’ resource

I have COPD:

  • Keep taking your usual medication as prescribed
  • If you are living with COPD, be vigilant about hand hygiene and follow physical distancing recommendations
  • Follow your COPD management plan. If you don’t have one see your doctor and ask for a COPD Action Plan
  • Check your medications are in date.
  • Talk to your doctor about getting your flu, pneumococcal and COVID-19 vaccinations

If you would like more information on how to manage your asthma and/or COPD call Asthma WA on (08) 9289 3600 or 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462).

If you are feeling unwell call ahead to talk through your symptoms and find out what you need to do. Please do not expose others to your condition.

If you are experiencing any respiratory symptoms, please get a COVID-19 test as soon as possible.

The main benefit of wearing a facemask is to protect people around you. If a person has COVID-19 and doesn’t know it, wearing a mask will help to prevent the virus from being passed on to others. Wearing a mask can reduce the risk of transmitting other respiratory illnesses to people around you.

While a mask is an extra precaution, it is important to continue to:

  • Maintain physical distancing (1.5 metres) from others when you are out in the community
  • Stay home if you are unwell
  • Avoid large gatherings and crowded spaces
  • Practice good hand hygiene and cough etiquette at all times
  • Get tested for COVID-19 whenever you experience any symptoms

Everyone, including people with asthma and COPD, should choose a mask that fits snugly and is as comfortable as possible.  Cloth masks should be 3 layers, preferably of different types of fabric, and it is best if one of these layers is made of synthetic fibres.  There is no ‘best’ mask – people with asthma/COPD may like to try a few different types and fabrics to see which one they prefer.

Many businesses are selling disposable and reusable masks. Before purchasing or making a mask visit the WA Department of Health website for the latest updates on mask requirements and recommendations for face masks.

The vast majority of people with asthma/COPD are able to wear masks. If you find wearing a mask difficult due to your respiratory condition, we recommend seeing your doctor to discuss the best option for you and a review of your asthma/COPD symptom control.

Most people with asthma are able to wear a face mask for a short period of time, even if their asthma is severe. However, some people may be exempt on the basis of disability, physical or mental health conditions. We encourage anyone who finds wearing a mask difficult to discuss this with their doctor, especially if you think you may be in an exempt category. There may be an alternate type of face covering that you would feel more comfortable wearing, or it may be a good time to review your asthma control.

Read more about face mask exemptions here.

An article published in the European Respiratory Journal found there is no evidence to support people living with respiratory conditions to be exempt from wearing face masks. In fact, not wearing a face mask may put that individual at greater risk of infection by COVID-19.

Read an article by National Asthma Council on face masks and exemptions (published September 2021) here.

In Australia, the people most at risk of getting COVID-19 are those who have:

  • been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • recently been in a high-risk country or region

Based on what we know about coronaviruses, those most at risk of serious infection are:

  • people with compromised immune systems (such as people who have cancer)
  • elderly people
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • people with diagnosed chronic medical conditions such as lung diseases or diabetes
  • people who smoke

While there hasn’t been a great deal of research on smoking and COVID-19, it is important to remember that people who smoke are generally at a higher risk of respiratory tract infections. Smoking also involves contact of fingers with the lips, which can increase the transmission of a virus from hand to mouth.

To learn more about COVID-19 and smoking visit Quit.

Asthma WA is aware that there have been some periods where people have experienced difficulty accessing their respiratory medications.

We understand that some local pharmacies may have limited stocks of some popular products from time to time, as well as stock transport issues from pharmaceutical companies warehouses located on the east coast.

Unfortunately, we do not supply or provide access to medications, however, we can help you with spacers and other asthma equipment. We are working closely with pharmacies but cannot advise on local area availability.

It is important to note that Asthma WA does not support bulk purchases or hoarding.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration released a media statement in 2020 outlining changes that have been made to the restriction of sales of certain medications, including Salbutamol inhalers, to assist with the local shortages that are affecting people.

At this stage, it is unknown with certainty if COVID-19 is worse for those with asthma/COPD, although people with respiratory conditions generally experience a greater level of symptoms when they develop a respiratory viral infection.

At this stage it does not appear that people with asthma or COPD are more at risk of contracting COVID-19, however, they may be more at risk of serious outcomes from the virus. More research is required to answer this question.

According to Healthy WA, the following people are more likely to experience a severe infection from COVID-19:

  • people who are 65 years or older with chronic medical conditions
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are 50 years or older with a chronic medical condition”
  • Could just state that people 65 years of age or older with asthma or COPD and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples who are 50 years or older with asthma or COPD

People with chronic respiratory conditions need to be vigilant with their respiratory health, visit their doctor, have an updated asthma or COPD management plan, and keep taking their medications as prescribed. Discuss appropriate vaccinations with your doctor, especially prior to the winter flu season.

The symptoms of asthma can occur at any stage of life, even if you have been symptom-free for a long period of time. Asthma can be triggered by many things including colds, flus and viruses.

If you have occasional asthma symptoms, now is a good time to see your GP for an asthma review.

The recommendation is for one flu vaccination per year. There is insufficient data to support two vaccinations in one year.

If you have any further queries related to this, please discuss them with your doctor.

You should have the flu vaccination as soon as it becomes available at your doctor or pharmacy.

The flu is a contagious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses. It can affect the nose, throat and lungs. It is not the same as the common cold or COVID-19. The flu vaccination will only protect you against influenza.

If you have been prescribed a preventer to be taken seasonally, we suggest that you visit your doctor for an asthma review to discuss when the best time to commence your preventer. Please do not wait until asthma symptoms appear.

If you have read that people should avoid taking steroids in the treatment of COVID-19 please be aware that this refers to ORAL corticosteroids and does not include INHALED corticosteroids.

It is important that people that are prescribed inhaled corticosteroids (a key component of most preventer medications) continue to do so. These medications are helping to reduce inflammation in the lungs that occurs with people that have asthma and are also working to reduce your sensitivity towards triggers.

Unless your GP has advised you to or it is a part of your asthma action plan, do not take oral steroids. Oral Steroids should only be taken if it is part of your action plan or they have been prescribed by your GP or Specialist. These medications work on the whole body, not just the lungs, and if you have COVID-19 they may slow down recovery.

Looking for more resources?

The following resources may also be helpful to better understand asthma, COPD, COVID-19 and vaccinations.