COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease)
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2 (a type of coronavirus). It causes respiratory symptoms, but it can also affect other parts of your body. Some people may have long-term symptoms called “Long COVID.”
The Public Health Emergency declaration for COVID-19 ended on May 11, 2023, but COVID-19 is still circulating.
You may notice some changes now that the emergency declaration is over. For example, you may have to pay some out-of-pocket costs for the COVID-19 vaccine, depending on your insurance.
Access to resources – such as vaccinations and treatments, emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 products, telehealth, and resources for Long COVID – may also change.
It is important to remember there will always be new versions of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. But now, we have the tools and the resources to protect ourselves and our loved ones from getting COVID-19 or having severe symptoms. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your community is a multi-step approach including staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines.
What Is COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease)?
COVID-19 spreads through close contact from person to person. A person with the virus can spread it to other people by talking, coughing, sneezing, singing, or breathing. The virus will be in large or small droplets that are exhaled from the mouth or nose out into the air. Very small droplets can spread in the air.
If you are near someone who is ill with COVID-19, you may be at greatest risk for becoming infected. The virus may also spread if you have direct physical contact with a person who has COVID-19.
What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common COVID-19 symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Feeling tired and weak – more than usual
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
If you have these emergency warning signs, call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately:
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest that doesn’t go away
- New and sudden confusion
- Can’t wake up or stay awake
- Cyanosis – tissue color changes on mucus membranes (like tongue, lips, and around the eyes) and fingertips or nail beds – the color appears grayish or whitish on darker skin tones and bluish on lighter skin tones
This list may not include all symptoms. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after coming in contact with the virus. If you have any symptoms that are severe or concerning, call your doctor.
How Can I Tell the Difference Between Asthma, Seasonal Allergies, a Cold, COVID-19, the Flu, a Cold, or RSV?
There are some symptoms that are similar between COVID-19 and other diseases or infections. The charts below can help you figure out if you may be feeling symptoms of asthma, allergies, or a respiratory illness like COVID-19, the flu, a cold, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). If you have a fever and a cough, call your doctor right away. If you have seasonal allergies, there are things you can do to treat them at home.
Information is still changing. We will update this chart as new evidence comes out.
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What Do People with Asthma Need to Know About COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease)?
Many studies show that having asthma does not put you at a greater risk of getting COVID-19 or having severe COVID-19.1,2,3 But COVID-19 can cause asthma episodes like other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu and RSV.
The CDC lists moderate-to-severe asthma as a chronic lung disease that can make you more likely to have severe illness from COVID-19.
It is important to keep your asthma well-controlled. If your asthma is not under control, you are at a greater risk in general of having an asthma episode or attack, going to the emergency room, staying in the hospital, or even death. If you feel like your asthma is not well-controlled, talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
How Can I Protect Myself and Other People From COVID-19?
A multi-step approach is best to protect yourself and other people from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses:
- Get an updated COVID-19 vaccine: An important way to protect yourself and other people from COVID-19 is to get a vaccine. The vaccine reduces the chance of getting COVID-19. It can also reduce the severity of your symptoms if you get the disease. The COVID-19 vaccines are now just like a flu vaccine – you get one every year. (Some people may need to get more than one.)
- Avoid close contact with sick people: The closer you are to people infected with COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses, the more likely you will be to get catch them. Avoid crowded rooms or buildings and keep at least six feet apart from other people when respiratory illnesses are high.
- Wear a mask: Masks provide a level of protection by stopping viruses from spreading from person to person when illnesses are high. Wear a N95 mask that fits well for the most protection. Wearing a mask is especially helpful in crowded indoor spaces or spaces that don’t have good ventilation.
- Improve ventilation: Opening a window, changing air filters, and using CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® air cleaners can help to improve air flow in your home. This will help prevent virus particles from gathering in your indoor air.
- Stay home when you are sick: COVID-19, as well as many other respiratory illnesses, can easily spread to others. If you are sick or have symptoms, stay home, get tested, and talk with your health care provider.
- Wash your hands: When you cough or sneeze into your hand, you can spread viruses to the next item or person you touch. Wash your hands often to prevent illnesses such as the flu and common cold.
- Cover your cough and sneeze: If you are sick, you can spread your illness. Protect other people by wearing a mask. If you do not have a mask on, cover your cough and sneeze with tissue, or by coughing into your elbow.
What Do I Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Everyone ages 6 months and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine. The available vaccines in the U.S. include:
- Pfizer (ages 6 months and older)
- Moderna (ages 6 months and older)
- Novavax (ages 12 and older)
The CDC recommends that people ages 5 and older get one dose of an updated COVID-19 vaccine to stay up to date, regardless of if you have received an original vaccine.
These people may need more than one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine:
- Children ages 6 months to 4 years
- People who are moderately-to-severely immunocompromised
Talk with your doctor before you get a COVID-19 vaccine if you have a:
- Moderate or acute (short-term) illness
- Current case of COVID-19
- History of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to a vaccine or injectable medicine
- History of an allergic reaction to PEG or polysorbate
Where Can I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
You can get the COVID-19 vaccine at most pharmacies in the United States. To find where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine near you, visit: Vaccines.gov
Why Do the COVID-19 Vaccines Keep Changing? If I Get One Vaccine, Why Doesn’t It Last Forever?
The COVID-19 vaccine works to prevent you from getting COVID-19. Most importantly, it protects against severe illness, hospital stays, and even death. Viruses are constantly changing, so the experts who make vaccines have to change the vaccines to be more effective.
This does not mean the vaccines are not working. They are. Your protection is reduced over time after you get a shot, especially if you are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19. This is why it’s important to get the updated vaccine when it is available.
What Happens If I Get COVID-19 and I Have Moderate-to-Severe Asthma or I Am Immunocompromised?
If you have moderate-to-severe asthma or a chronic lung disease, you may be more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 or be sicker for a longer period of time. It is important to keep your asthma well-controlled. If your asthma is uncontrolled, you might be at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
If you get COVID-19 or think you might have COVID-19, contact your doctor right away. There is an antiviral treatment called Paxlovid that may reduce the severity of your illness if you take it within five days of having symptoms.
You can be immunocompromised due to a medical condition, such as another chronic lung disease or from taking immunosuppressive medicines like high-dose oral corticosteroids (20 mg or more of prednisone or equivalent per day for two weeks or longer).
If you get very sick from COVID-19, you are more likely to:
- Need to be in the hospital for specialized care
- Require a ventilator to help you breathe
- Need intensive care
If you have moderate-to-severe asthma or are immunocompromised, get the COVID-19 vaccine and follow the multi-step approach listed in the section above titled, “How Can I Protect Myself and Other People From COVID-19?”
You can get free COVID-19 test kits mailed to your home. Each household can get up to four free tests. Sign up to get yours at: COVID.gov/tests
Should I Stop Taking My Asthma Medicine If I Get COVID-19?
Common medicines you may take for asthma and allergies do not increase your risk of getting COVID-19. They will help you keep your asthma under control. You are at greater risk for having an asthma attack if you stop taking your medicines. Take your medicines at the first sign of symptoms as listed on your Asthma Action Plan. Continue to take these medicines as prescribed:
- Quick-relief medicine (such as albuterol)
- Inhaled corticosteroids (controller medicines)
- Oral corticosteroids (such as prednisone)
- Antihistamines (allergy medicine)
- Proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux
- Nasal allergy sprays
- Allergy shots
If you have any questions about asthma medicines and COVID-19, talk with your doctor.
If you have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it and need to take quick-relief medicine (such as albuterol) for an asthma episode, use an inhaler (with a spacer if directed by your doctor) if possible. Using a nebulizer can increase the risk of sending virus particles in the air if you are sick. If you have a nebulizer and solution, it is OK to use it to treat an asthma episode. But when using a nebulizer, limit the number of people in the room or use it in a room by yourself.
What Is Long COVID and What Do I Do If I Think I Have It?
Long COVID, or post COVID conditions, refers to signs, symptoms, and conditions that may develop after you have COVID-19. Many people who get COVID-19 get better after a couple of weeks. For some, it may take four weeks or longer. Long COVID shows up at least four weeks after you get COVID-19.
There is no test to tell if you have Long COVID. Long COVID can last for weeks, months, and sometimes years. Talk with your doctor if your symptoms last longer than four weeks.
Long COVID may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if your symptoms greatly limit one or more major life activity.4
Medical Review: January 2024 by Mitchell Grayson, MD
- Chhiba, K.D., Patel, G.B., Vu, T.H.T, Chen, M.M., Guo, A., Kudlaty, E., Mai, Q., Yeh, C., Muhammad, L.N., Harris, K.E., Bochner, B.S., Grammar, L.C., Greenberger, P.A., Kalhan, R., Kuang, F.L., Saltoun, C.A., Schleimer, R.P., Stevens, W.W., & Peters, A.T. (2020). Prevalence and characterization of asthma in hospitalized and non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2020.06.010
- Butler, M. W., O’Reilly, A., Dunican, E. M., Mallon, P., Feeney, E. R., Keane, M. P., & McCarthy, C. (2020). Prevalence of comorbid asthma in COVID-19 patients. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2020.04.061
- Lieberman-Cribbin, W., Rapp, J., Alpert, N., Tuminello, S., & Taioli, E. (2020). The Impact of Asthma on Mortality in Patients With COVID-19. Chest. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chest.2020.0air pol.575
- Guidance on “Long COVID” as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557. (2021, July 26). HHS.gov; Office for Civil Rights (OCR). https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-providers/civil-rights-covid19/guidance-long-covid-disability/