Update – March 27, 2020
We added the following updates to this blog post:
- Updated symptom chart to reflect the latest information
- A list of less common symptoms
- New resource on health care open enrollment in certain states
- How to get tested for COVID-19
- Information on taking ibuprofen
- Information on using a nebulizer at home and nasal sprays
Other resources available include:
- Protecting Your Hands From Eczema During Coronavirus and Flu Outbreaks
- Please Don’t Stop Taking Your Asthma Medicines Due to the Coronavirus– a guest blog post from Dr. Mitchell Grayson
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis: Some States Open Enrollment for Health Insurance
Note: Because this is a constantly changing situation, any data in this blog post may not represent the most up-to-date information. We will update this blog when possible.
What Is the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
A coronavirus is a type of virus that often occurs in animals. Sometimes, it can spread to humans. This is rare.
In December 2019, a new coronavirus started spreading. Experts think people first caught the virus at a fish and live animal market. Now it is spreading from person to person.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), common coronavirus symptoms can include:
- Cough (usually dry)
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired
Other less common symptoms can include:
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Aches and pains
- Sore throat
- Diarrhea or nausea
The CDC believes symptoms may appear two to 14 days after coming in contact with the virus. WHO has declared it a global pandemic (an outbreak of a new virus that spreads easily).
How Can I Tell the Difference Between the Coronavirus, the Flu, a Cold or Seasonal Allergies?
There are some symptoms that are similar between these respiratory illnesses. This chart can help you figure out if you may be feeling symptoms of allergies or a respiratory illness like COVID-19. If you have a fever and a cough, call your doctor. If you have seasonal allergies, there are things you can do to treat at home.
All of these conditions may worsen asthma, so it’s important to keep taking your asthma control medicines.
Information is still changing. We will update this chart as new evidence comes out.
How Does the Coronavirus Spread?
The virus is spread through coughing (or sneezing). The virus will be in droplets that are coughed out into the air. These are heavy droplets and they quickly fall to the ground/surface below.
People who are within 1 to 2 meters (3 to 6 feet) of someone who is ill with the coronavirus may be within the zone that droplets can reach. If someone who is sick coughs on or near your face, you may get infected. This is why the CDC recommends that everyone should cough/sneeze into their elbows or a tissue and throw it away and wash their hands. People who are sick should also wear a mask to help stop the spread of illness.
The coronavirus may also live on surfaces that people have coughed on. If you touch a surface with the virus on it and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you may get sick.
Who Is at Risk From the Coronavirus?
At this time, there is little data about how the new coronavirus affects people with asthma. One study of 140 cases showed no link to asthma.1 However, we know that asthma has worsened with other strains of coronavirus.
According to the WHO and the CDC, the highest risk groups include:
- People who have traveled in from a country with a Level 3 Travel Notice
- People caring for someone who is ill with the coronavirus
- People over age 65
- People who are pregnant
- People with chronic medical conditions such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Renal failure
- Liver disease
- Immunocompromised people, such as those on cancer treatments
- People with a body mass index over 40
- Asthma (and other lung diseases)
People with asthma should take precautions when any type of respiratory illness is spreading in their community.
The CDC has released guidelines for people at high risk (including people with asthma):
- Stock up on supplies (a 14 to 30 day supply)
- Take steps to keep a distance from others (social distancing, about 6 feet)
- Avoid people who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often
- Avoid crowds as much as possible
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Clean and disinfect your home and car regularly, especially items you touch often like doorknobs, light switches, cell phones, car door handles and steering wheels, etc.
If there is an outbreak in your local community, the CDC also recommends you stay home as much as possible. Try to find ways to have food and supplies delivered to your home.
In the U.S., flu activity is still high. If you get sick, it could be the flu unless you live in a coronavirus outbreak area. If you have symptoms of a cough or fever, call your doctor. There are antiviral treatments available for the flu.
How Can I Avoid Getting the Coronavirus and Other Respiratory Infections?
The steps you take to avoid the flu and other respiratory infections will also help protect you from the coronavirus:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 to 30 seconds, always after coughing or sneezing. If you don’t have access to running water, use an alcohol-based hand cleanser that is at least 60% alcohol.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Stay away from people who are sick or have been in contact with someone who is sick.
- Don’t share makeup, food, dishes or eating utensils.
- Take your daily asthma medicines to keep your asthma under control.
Spring pollen is increasing across the U.S. too. Seasonal allergies can affect people with allergic asthma. If pollen allergies trigger asthma symptoms for you, be sure to follow your allergy treatment plan to keep your allergies under control to prevent asthma episodes or attacks.
The most important way you can protect yourself right now is to keep your asthma under control. If your asthma is not under control, call your doctor right away.
If you do get sick, call your doctor and follow your Asthma Action Plan.
There is no vaccine for the new coronavirus. Get the flu shot if you haven't already – it's not too late to protect yourself from the flu. The flu season can last as late as May.
The CDC now recommends that everyone wear a cloth face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
If you plan to travel, check CDC travel precautions.
If I Think I Have the Coronavirus, What Should I Do?
If you start having symptoms of the coronavirus, call your doctor or your local department of health right away. Many states are adding testing options daily, and your doctor or department of health can tell you what to do.
If you have Medicare, you might be able to have a virtual visit with your doctor. The government has expanded the coverage of telehealth services during the coronavirus crisis.
Should I Avoid Taking Ibuprofen If I Get the Coronavirus?
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is not enough evidence yet to know if ibuprofen and other NSAIDS (a type of medicine that reduces swelling) makes coronavirus symptoms worse.
If you are concerned about taking ibuprofen when you have the coronavirus, ask your doctor if you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce your fever.
What Do People With Asthma Need to Know About the New Coronavirus? Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Dr. Mitchell Grayson