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Q: Will the symptoms of COVID-19 feel like an asthma attack, and does having asthma put me at higher risk?

Many people have asthma in Hawaii, so it’s good to know how to tell the difference between an asthma attack and COVID-19.

During an asthma attack, a person typically feels shortness of breath, and they might also feel chest pressure — like an elephant sitting on your chest. An inhaler can provide relief. With COVID-19 you might feel the same shortness of breath and pressure, along with some additional symptoms, including fever, body aches, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue.

The bottom line is, if it feels like more than your usual asthma attack, it probably is. If you experience shortness of breath along with other COVID-19 symptoms, it’s very important to call your doctor and let them know.

As for the second part of your question, more recent U.S. data suggests that asthma may put people at increased risk for hospitalization with COVID-19. It’s a good idea for people with asthma to take extra precautions to protect themselves with physical distancing, washing hands, wearing a mask when they go out, and staying home as much as possible. And unless they’re told otherwise by their doctor, they should continue using their inhaler as prescribed, as well as any long-term control medications.

David Ulin, MD
Chief Medical Director