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Coronavirus and COVID-19

What should people with a lung condition do now?

You can help control the coronavirus:

This guidance applies in England. If you live outside England, there is specific guidance for:

Stay at home

If you live with a lung condition, it’s very important you stay at home as much as possible. If you do go out, take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household. 

Everyone is asked to stay at home unless necessary to go out for specific reasons set out in law:

  • for work, where you cannot work from home
  • to go to shops that can open to get things like food and medicine, and to collect things you’ve ordered online or over the phone
  • to do exercise or to spend time outdoors for recreation, such as a run, walk or cycle, alone or with another member of your household
  • for any medical need or to care for someone who’s vulnerable 

Read the detailed guidance about staying at home. Questions? Read what you can and can’t do from 13 May in England.

The law differs in each nation, so for more information about what you are allowed to do, please visit the websites for the UK governments and devolved administrations:

Get local support

Even if you're not shielding, you may be able to access local support. For example, in England if you are self-isolating and meet certain criteria you can get support from the NHS volunteer responders. They can do things like helping you with shopping, getting prescriptions or just checking in to see how you are doing. Register for support online or by calling 0808 196 3646. There are equivalent services in the devolved administrations.  You can also get in touch with thousands of local mutual aid groups across the UK.

Staying safe outside your home

  • limit contact with people outside your household. You can lower the risk of catching the virus by reducing the number of people you come into contact with.
    • At work, your employer can help you to do this. For example by creating smaller teams. 
    • Avoid peak travel times on public transport. Think about when and how you could travel. For example you should walk or cycle if you can rather than take public transport. Employers can take steps to help – for example by staggering working hours and providing car parking.
    • Businesses should take reasonable steps to avoid crowds – for example, by using more entrances and exits. 
    • Droplets are released when people talk or cough, so stay 2 metres away from someone outside your household and avoid being face-to-face with someone. It’s safer to stay side-to-side.
  • keep your distance. Public Health England continues to recommend trying to keep 2 metres away from people outside your household. This is because the risk of infection goes up the closer you are to a person with the virus, and the amount of time you spend in close contact with them.
  • work from home if you can. Your employer should support you to make reasonable adjustments to do this. If your workplace is open and you cannot work from home, you can travel to work. Read more about returning to work.
  • wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitiser outside your home, especially as you go into a building and after you touch any surfaces. Avoid touching your face. You should also wash your clothes regularly if you work with people outside your household, as there’s some evidence the virus can stay on fabrics for a few days.
  • use a face covering. In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland you are encouraged, if you can, to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible or when you come into contact with people you do not normally meet. For example, on public transport or in shops when it’s crowded. In Wales, this currently isn’t recommended.

    Wearing a face covering may reduce the risk of spreading infection by protecting people you come into contact with. Face coverings do not replace social distancing.

    People with breathing problems and children under 2 or others who may find it difficult should not use face coverings.

    If you feel comfortable wearing a mask when you’re in a public place and it’s hard to keep 2 metres away from other people, and you chose to wear a mask, please use a cloth covering and not a mask designed for clinical use. The NHS needs these supplies. You should also wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.

Read how to make your own face covering that covers your mouth and nose.

Read detailed guidance about staying safe outside your home. Questions? Read what you can and can’t do from 13 May in England. 

Returning to work

If you have a long-term lung condition and would be offered a flu jab every year, you’re more likely to be at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

People in this group should continue to take care to minimise contact with other people outside their household and should be encouraged to work from home.

If working from home isn’t possible, your employer should arrange things so you can practise strict social distancing to stay 2 metres away from others. If this is not possible, your employer must carefully assess whether this involves an acceptable level of risk.

If you do go back to work, think about how you will get there. Walk or cycle if you can, or drive in your own car. You should only take public transport unless absolutely necessary. Read more about the government’s guidance on travel

The government has released guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during coronavirus:

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.

Your usual care

You should still get the usual care for your condition at this time, but some parts of it might be done a bit differently.

Your health care professionals at your GP surgery or at hospital clinics are likely to be doing most of their appointments over the phone or by video. If they still want to see you in person, they may ask you to come to see them.

You can find out more about technology and your health care in our new guide.

Some routine appointments may be postponed, such as annual reviews of your care. But annual reviews are important to ensure your condition is managed as well as possible and to reduce the risk of a flare-up of your symptoms. So do book an annual review as soon as you are able to.

Oxygen therapy reviews will be deferred, or done at home, or done over the phone or by video.

Routine lung function and breathing tests have been suspended. 

Pulmonary rehabilitation courses have been paused, but have a look at our online videos or download our exercise handbook to keep exercising.

What if I get more out of breath than usual?

If you are more breathless than usual and worried about COVID, use the 111 online coronavirus service. Only call 111 if you aren’t able to get online.

If you are:

  • struggling to breathe or
  • feel like you’re panting or
  • having difficulty speaking or
  • feeling like you’re choking

use your usual techniques to get your breathing under control. If these don’t work as quickly as they usually would, call 999 for help. A lot of routine activity has been paused, but the NHS is still there to look after you, and it’s important to get the help you need for your lung condition.

If you are more breathless than usual and recognise the signs of a flare-up of your symptoms, follow your flare-up plan if you have one. You’ll start with breathing control exercises. You may have learned them at pulmonary rehabilitation if you’ve been on a course. If you don’t have a plan or haven’t attended PR, try using your reliever inhaler more (if you have been prescribed one) and take a look at our advice about breathlessness, including ways to control your breathing. If that doesn’t help after a few hours, tell your GP or call 111.

In these worrying times, you may be feeling more anxious and this may also make you breathe faster and tense your breathing muscles. Read about anxiety and how to manage it if you’re living with a long-term lung condition.

Remember: Always get medical help if you get out of breath suddenly and unexpectedly.

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, bronchiectasis 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.

If you live with bronchiectasis and develop a fever and cough, but feel well, try to clear your airways more often and take paracetamol to reduce fever. If you become more unwell, seek medical advice. If you have a home supply of antibiotics, as many people with bronchiectasis do, only take this if your sputum increases in amount or becomes discoloured. Antibiotics will not work against a virus, but will treat a bacterial infection.

If you have active or latent TB, there is currently no evidence that you are at more at risk from COVID-19. It is important not to stop your TB medication if you feel worse, but to seek advice from your local TB team.

If you think you may have coronavirus symptoms, use the NHS coronavirus tool if you’re not sure what to do. It's important to follow advice from NHS111 or your health care professional. 

If you’re advised to self-isolate, use the 111 online coronavirus service if:

  • you feel you can’t cope with your symptoms at home or 
  • your conditions get worse.

Follow your flare-up plan and self-manage as you usually do if have your usual symptoms of a flare-up, and you don’t have fever or a new continuous cough.

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. Read about the importance of talking to others and how to get started in our technology for lung health guide

  • 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.

Tell the NHS about how coronavirus is affecting you

The NHS is asking you to answer some quick questions to help its planning. It wants to understand how and where coronavirus is affecting people.


For the most up to date information and guidance visit the NHS website.

What you can read next:

Last updated: Thursday 4 June 2020

We hope you have found this content useful

We hope you have found this content useful. Our team of health experts is working tirelessly on a daily basis to provide the latest and most up to date health advice concerning coronavirus (COVID-19).

Record numbers of people now need our support. As a charity, we rely on donations from people like you. We do not yet know if we will be eligible for government help. However, our help and advice are only possible thanks to kind donations from people like you.

If you can, and are able, please donate now. Every pound will make a difference.


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 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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