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Coronavirus and COVID-19

What should people with a lung condition do now?

Everyone should stay at home to fight the coronavirus to protect the NHS and save lives.

This applies to everyone, including anyone who is offered a flu jab as an adult each year because they have a long-term respiratory disease, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, bronchitis, bronchiectasis, pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis, unless you have a serious lung condition and are in the vulnerable group that needs to shield.

Stay at home

Each of us should only leave the house for one of 4 reasons:

  • to shop for basic essentials, such as food and medicine, and as infrequently as you can
  • to do 1 form of exercise a day, such as a run, walk or cycle, alone or with another member of your household
  • for any medical need or to support a person at very high risk
  • to travel to and from work, only if you can’t work from home

If you must go out for 1 of these reasons, keep the time as short as possible and keep 2 metres away from anyone not in your household.

Read the detailed guidance about what you can do and closing non-essential shops and public places. The measures will last for 3 weeks from 23 March until 13 April, when the government will review them.

Everyone should continue to follow handwashing and hygiene advice. It’s important to keep your hands clean to stop the virus spreading. The virus can pass from hand to hand, and we touch our faces a lot. There are sensible hygiene measures you can follow to cut the risk.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Always wash your hands when you get home or get into work.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel.
  • Avoid touching your face as this can transfer the virus from your hands to your mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and encourage other people around you to do the same.
  • Cough into your elbow or the crook of your arm to reduce the spread of germs and throw away used tissues as soon as you can.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser if you cough or sneeze on them.
  • Avoid touching things in public spaces as much as possible.
  • Don't shake hands with other people.

Quit smoking

If you smoke, it's vital to quit. People who smoke are five times more likely to get flu and twice as likely to get pneumonia.

Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to protect yourself from viral infections, including coronavirus.

What if my symptoms flare up?

It’s important that you know the signs of an exacerbation or flare-up in your condition and have a plan in place about what to do. Take a look at our information on COPD and bronchiectasis flare-ups and the Asthma UK action plan.

It may be tricky to work out whether new symptoms are due to COVID-19 or due to an exacerbation or flare-up of your condition. Typically, exacerbations of COPD and asthma are not associated with a high fever.

If you become unwell and there is a risk you might have COVID-19, stay at home for 7 days, and if others live with you, you and they should stay at home for 14 days. Signs of COVID-19 include a high temperature and a new continuous cough.

Follow your usual steps to manage an exacerbation or flare-up, including getting medical help if you need to.

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if:

  • you feel you can't cope with your symptoms at home
  • your condition gets worse
  • your symptoms do not get better after 7 days

It is important to follow advice from NHS 111 or your health care professional. But if there is any doubt, stay at home for 7 days if you have symptoms. Follow your flare-up plan and self-manage as you usually do if your symptoms flare-up.

Should I use a facemask?

We do not recommend using a facemask to protect yourself as there isn’t enough evidence to show how effective they are. Also, for people living with a lung condition wearing a facemask can make breathing more difficult.

Help if you’re feeling worried

Some people with lung conditions are telling us that they feel very worried and anxious about coronavirus.

It’s normal to have these sorts of feelings at a time like this if you live with a lung condition. Here’s some tips to help you cope:

  • Only look at reliable sources of information about coronavirus that are updated regularly, such as the NHS, to help you feel more in control

  • Watch out for bad habits – look for ideas of exercises you can do at home. Try our exercise videos or the NHS website. Don’t increase the amount of alcohol you drink

  • Keep in touch with your friends and family – in stressful times we cope better with support from those close to us

  • Involve your family, including your children, in plans to keep well

The Mental Health Foundation has suggested these and other ways to look after your mental wellbeing during the outbreak.

For the most up to date information and guidance visit Public Health England and the NHS.

What you can read next:

Current on: Tuesday 24 March 2020
Last updated: Tuesday 24 March 2020

If you have concerns or need advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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Last medically reviewed: March 2020. Due for review: March 2020

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.