What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, is an infectious condition caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Find out what the symptoms and risks are, and what you can do if you’re feeling worried.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Symptoms of COVID-19 in adults can be:  

  • a high temperature (you feel hot to touch on your chest or back) 
  • shivering (chills)
  • a new continuous cough
  • a loss or change in your sense of smell or taste
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • muscle and joint aches
  • a headache
  • a sore throat
  • a blocked or runny nose
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling sick or being sick. 

The symptoms of COVID-19 may be like a cold or flu. They might also be similar to the symptoms of your lung condition or symptoms you get when your lung condition flares up. 

Read more about coronavirus symptoms in adults and children on the NHS website.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms

Try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 and you: 

  • have a high temperature or
  • do not feel well enough to go to school, work or do your normal activities.

Find out more about what to do if you have COVID-19.

COVID-19 testing

COVID-19 tests are no longer free for most people.

You can get free COVID-19 rapid lateral flow tests if your lung condition means you’re eligible for COVID-19 treatments. If you’re eligible, you can order tests for free through GOV.UK or by calling 119.

If you work in healthcare or social care, you may also be entitled to free tests. Check the advice for England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

If you are not eligible for free rapid lateral flow tests, you can buy them from some pharmacies and shops, both in-store and online.  

Am I more at risk from COVID-19 if I have a lung condition?

If you have a long-term lung condition, you’re at a higher risk of becoming very ill with coronavirus. This includes people with:

  • asthma, if it’s poorly controlled 
  • bronchiectasis
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including chronic bronchitis and emphysema
  • cystic fibrosis
  • interstitial lung disease, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), sarcoidosis hypersensitivity pneumonitis or pneumoconiosis
  • bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)
  • lung cancer 
  • mesothelioma 
  • pulmonary hypertension
  • other long-term health issues that affect the lungs, such as an autoimmune condition or connective tissue disease.

You are also more at risk if you’ve recently had a lung transplant.

Am I more at risk from COVID-19 if I have asthma?  

Most people with well-controlled asthma are not at any higher risk of becoming very ill with coronavirus than the general population.

People with poorly controlled asthma are more at risk. Poorly controlled asthma means you:  

  • have taken two or more courses of oral corticosteroids in the last 24 months (two years), or
  • take steroid tablets every day for your asthma, or
  • have had one or more hospital admissions for asthma in the last 24 months (two years).

If you’re having asthma symptoms or use your reliever inhaler three or more times a week, it’s a sign your asthma is not as well controlled as it could be. Make an appointment to see your GP or asthma nurse.

Biologic therapies for severe asthma do not increase your risk of getting infected with COVID-19 or becoming very ill with it.

Am I more at risk if I take immunosuppressive medicine?  

Some medicines that you take to treat your lung condition can make your immune system weaker. If you’re taking any of these medicines, you could be at higher risk from COVID-19: 

  • prednisolone
  • methotrexate
  • mycophenolate mofetil
  • mercaptopurine
  • oral tacrolimus
  • ciclosporin
  • azathioprine.

If you’re not sure whether the medicines you’re taking mean you’re more at risk, check with your doctor or healthcare professional.

Help if you’re feeling worried

We understand if you feel worried or anxious about coronavirus, especially if you live with a long-term lung condition.  

Here are some ways to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing: 

Get support

Call or WhatsApp our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

Did you find this information useful?

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 0300 222 5800 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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