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Coronavirus and COVID-19

Coronavirus and living with a lung condition

On this page, we explain what you need to know about coronavirus if you live with a long-term lung condition. We have information on lowering your risk from coronavirus and maintaining your usual care.

On this page:

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is short for COronaVIrus Disease 2019. It is an infectious respiratory virus that can affect anyone. Most people will have mild to moderate cold-like symptoms, but some people are at higher risk of serious illness.

Find out more about the symptoms of coronavirus.

Lowering your risk

Having a long-term lung condition can put you at risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. Age is also a risk factor - especially if you’re aged 80 and older.

Because of this, it’s very important to try and lower your risk of getting coronavirus. With the support of family, friends, and your doctors, you can decrease your chances of catching the virus.

Quit smoking

If you smoke, the best thing to do for your health is 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.

Reducing your risks

We should all try to do what we can to prevent the spread of coronavirus. You can help to protect yourself and others by:

  • following the public health guidance for where you live or work
  • meeting outside where possible
  • keeping doors and windows open if you're meeting people inside
  • getting the coronavirus vaccine and booster and encouraging others to do the same
  • washing your hands often, using soap and warm water, or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • wearing a face mask, if you can, in crowded and enclosed places.

Coronavirus testing 

Coronavirus testing is no longer free for the general public. You may need to buy your tests from a local pharmacy. Depending on where you live, you will be eligible for free testing if you meet the specific criteria. 

Find out if you’re eligible for free lateral flow testing.

If you test positive with either a lateral flow or PCR test, you should follow the public health guidance for where you live, stay at home, and avoid contact with other people until you feel well.  This helps stop the spread of coronavirus and protects others, particularly those at high risk from serious illness. If you’re not sure about what you need to do, you can call the NHS coronavirus helpline on 119.

Care for your lung condition

It’s important to make sure you’re getting the care you’re entitled to for your specific lung condition. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in some changes in care. For example, you may have had hospital or GP appointments over the phone or by video instead of in person. 

It’s important that you are still having annual reviews of your care. These are important to ensure your condition is managed as well as possible, and to reduce the risk of symptom flare-ups. If your annual review is due, you should book one as soon as possible. 

Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) can help you to manage symptoms such as breathlessness. Ask your GP if PR courses are available in your area. Some PR courses may still be paused. Have a look at our online videos or download our exercise handbook to help you keep exercising.

If you need to stay at home

If you need to stay at home due to coronavirus, make sure you:

  • have enough of your medicines and continue to take them as prescribed
  • stay in touch with family, friends, and neighbours and ask for help if you need it.

If you are caring for someone or have a carer, it’s a good idea to make a plan for how you will manage if one of you becomes unwell. Carers UK have some useful advice on planning for emergencies.

You also might be entitled to welfare benefits. For more information on what you might be entitled to, take a look at our information or get in touch with Citizens Advice.

Going into work

Employers no longer have to consider COVID-19 in their workplace risk assessments.  However, health and safety laws are still in place to protect people at work. 

If you’re worried about your health and safety at work, you should speak with your employer about your concerns. To help you feel safer, you may also want to: 

  • plan your journey by walking or cycling if you can
  • speak to your employer about changing your working hours to travel on public transport at quieter times of the day 
  • avoid contact with people by driving to work if you can. 

You can also continue to follow public health guidance for reducing your risk of catching and spreading coronavirus.

If you can’t find a resolution with your employer and you don’t feel safe at work, try contacting your trade union, getting advice from ACAS, or contacting Citizens Advice.

Should I wear a face mask?

COVID-19 spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or sings. Evidence suggests that wearing a face mask correctly reduces the spread of coronavirus. 

Although face masks and coverings are not a legal requirement, there may be some settings where you’re asked to wear one, such as hospitals or at your GP surgery. You may also feel more comfortable wearing a face mask in public settings. 

The UK nations all have slightly different guidance for wearing face masks, so check the public health guidance in your area. 

Most people with a lung condition, even if it’s severe, can manage to wear a face mask for a short period of time. Wearing a mask does not reduce a person’s oxygen supply or cause a build-up of carbon dioxide. 

If you find wearing a face mask makes you feel too breathless, the governments in all four nations say you don’t have to wear one. 

Socialising with friends and family

If you’re worried about catching COVID-19, you may have some concerns about socialising in person. 

Even though it’s no longer a legal requirement, you may want to socially distance from people. Or you may prefer to meet outside and to know a person’s vaccination status ahead of meeting them. 

Your family and friends may understand your situation, but it might be tricky to explain why you still want to take precautions. We’ve put together some conversation starters to help you through these situations. You might want to say: 

  • “Just to let you know, I plan to wear a face covering when we meet, and I’d be grateful if you would wear one as well.”
  • “I was wondering if you’ve had your coronavirus vaccines. You get the best protection when you have both doses and the booster, and recent studies have shown that they help prevent the spread of the virus.”
  • “When I come over to yours, is it OK if we keep the windows open as this will help prevent the spread of the virus?”

The NHS has produced guidance on coping with anxiety about getting “back to normal”. It contains tips and advice on socialising, and sharing how you feel with others. 

Help if you’re feeling worried

It’s understandable to be feeling worried or anxious about coronavirus, especially if you live with a long-term lung condition. But if you’re feeling like you’re struggling to cope, you should speak to your GP or health care professional. They can offer you advice on things you can do to help you cope, and in some cases offer you treatment to help you feel better.

Here are some tips to help you look after your mental health:

  • Try to keep active. Look at our exercise videos or the NHS website. Getting outside for some fresh air can improve your mood too. 
  • Keep in touch with your friends and family – in stressful times we cope better with support from those close to us. 
  • Ask for help if you need it. You can find help for your mental health on the NHS. 

Our friendly helpline team is also there for you Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm. Call 0300 222 5800.

Further support

If you need extra help, such as getting food shopping or medicine deliveries, support is available across the UK. 

In all four nations, you can still get in touch with your local COVID Mutual Aid group. They’ll put you in touch with people who live locally who’ll be able to help you.

Last updated: Friday 22 July 2022

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: July 2022. Due for review: July 2022

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.