People with asthma should always be vigilant and take precautions when respiratory illnesses spread in their communities. And while there is very little evidence of COVID-19 causing asthma episodes, it’s important to protect yourself against the virus by taking extra measures above the standard hygiene, hand-washing  and social distancing protocol . If you’re suffering from asthma, the following plan of action will help you navigate this challenging time.
  1. Ensure your asthma is well-controlled, and use your preventer as prescribed by your doctor;
  2. Do not share inhalers with any other members of your family;
  3. The World Health Organization recommends that people suffering COVID-19 symptoms avoid taking ibuprofen, after French officials warned that anti-inflammatory drugs could worsen effects of the virus.. If you have been Aspirin desensitized, do not stop taking your Aspirin. If you are concerned contact your treating physician.
  4. If you use a nebulizer for an asthma exacerbation, it could become the source of the virus;
  5. A spacer device that can be sterilized is just as effective as a nebulizer. You can wash your spacer device each time after using it. Rinse it with soapy water so that the next time you use it, your medication does not stick to the sides but goes into your lungs;
  6. Try to  obtain an extra month’s chronic and emergency medication;
  7. Ask your healthcare provider for a written plan for exacerbations of your asthma. This plan should include guidelines to step up your preventer and reliever, and how to use a spacer device if you have an asthma flare-up. In some cases where you might need to nebulise with additional cortisone, your healthcare provider can give you an asthma preventer that you can use with your spacer device. This approach has the same efficacy;
  8. Many allergic asthma patients suffer from allergic rhinitis and what is commonly referred to as sinus. Please be mindful of the fact that at the time of writing these guidelines (mid-March 2020) we are in the peak of the pollen season in Gauteng and normal rhinitis/sinus flares does not mean you have the virus;
  9. Symptoms of Covid-19 include fever, dry cough and body aches;
  11. Call your doctor, or the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) for advice on the next steps. Their number is 0800 029 999.

This information is in addition to standard measures of hand washing, social distancing and avoiding of mass gatherings that are current recommendations by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

The purpose of this article is to raise awareness of allergies and the treatment options that are available for it. This article should by no means be used, or viewed, as a primary source for medical or other professional advice – please arrange for a personal consultation with your medical practitioner before taking any decisions that could affect the wellbeing of you or your loved ones. Read our medical disclaimer for more information.

Marinda McDonald

Dr Marinda McDonald has offered specialised treatments for allergies for most of her professional career. Read more about her on the home page of this website (