Dr. Linda Rogers has seen first-hand the struggle that patients with asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases have had during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though we are still learning, Dr. Rogers Clinical Director, of the Asthma Program at Mount Sinai, has been doing her part to answer questions about COVID-19 and asthma by working with experts at Mount Sinai. She shared some of her findings about how COVID-19 affects patients with asthma, and what they can do to stay healthy and safe during this uncertain time.
Q: Are patients with asthma at higher risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19?
Asthma is a multi-faceted disease, and data does not suggest that the risk is the same for all patients. There have been many large studies looking at this issue. They have found that patients with mild to moderate asthma that is well controlled and have had no recent flares are not at increased risk of suffering from severe COVID–19 symptoms. However, there is evidence that patients with moderate to severe asthma, including patients who have been on systemic steroids, patients with reduced lung function, or patients with non-allergic asthma, may be at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Q: Is it safe to use your asthma inhaler or controller medications if you have COVID-19?
Yes, it is safe to use your asthma medications. There have been a number of studies focused on how inhaled steroids affect patients with COVID-19 and if they are safe to use. The use of other controller medications including long-acting bronchodilators and leukotriene modifiers have also been found to be safe. Currently, we do not have evidence that asthma biological therapies suppress the immune system in a manner that would increase risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19, but additional studies of this issue are ongoing.
Q: Are masks safe for people with asthma and is there a specific kind that you would recommend?
Yes, masks are safe to use for people with asthma. We all should wear them, especially in situations where we cannot socially distance ourselves or are potentially around unvaccinated people. I would recommend using a medical grade disposable mask that closely fits the face without gaps on the side or up at the nose. This type of mask should be disposed of after wearing it once. Some patients with asthma may find breathing in masks difficult and may need to take breaks, particularly if using medical grade masks, such as N95 masks.
Q: Would you recommend the COVID-19 vaccine to people with asthma?
Yes, I recommend that everyone get a COVID-19 vaccine to reduce their likelihood of being hospitalized or dying of COVID-19. For asthma patients with a history of serious side effects, it is particularly important to consult your physician about the need to take extra precautions when receiving the vaccine, such as getting it in a hospital-based setting.
Q: Should people with asthma continue to wear masks after being vaccinated?
Yes, the CDC currently recommends that we wear masks despite vaccination when in public spaces with substantial or high transmission or in any area where you may be in close contact with non-vaccinated people. People with asthma may want to consider wearing a mask more frequently because of their weakened immune system.
Disclaimer: The information in this article was medically reviewed and accurate at the time of posting. Because knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 is constantly evolving, data or insights may have changed. The most recent posts are listed on the EACH Breath blog landing page. You may also visit our COVID-19 section for updated disease information and contact our Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA for COVID-19 questions.
Blog last updated: August 25, 2023