Asthma diagnosis and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic

Information for health professionals about asthma and COVID-19. First published 31 March 2020 | Updated 27 Jul 2022

Asthma diagnosis and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic

Please note: Information, evidence and advice relating to COVID-19 is constantly changing. The information in this article was correct at the time of writing.

During this period of uncertainty, NPS MedicineWise recognises that some aspects of asthma management may need to vary from usual clinical guidance. We will provide appropriate and relevant updates where we can.

You can also visit our main COVID-19 news page


Support regular use of asthma medicines

Health practitioners should encourage all patients with asthma to:

  • be vaccinated against COVID-19 if eligible
  • know how to use their reliever and preventer medicines (if required)
  • have an up-to-date asthma action plan
  • continue taking all medicines required to keep their asthma well controlled during this time. There is currently no evidence to suggest inhaled corticosteroids will increase risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2
  • practice good hygiene, physical distancing and other measures that reduce contact with other people who may be infected
  • contact their health professional if they begin to feel unwell or call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.

Recommendations for spirometry

Health professionals are advised to avoid spirometry in patients with:

  • symptoms consistent with COVID-19 
  • a fever
  • symptoms of a viral illness
  • worsening acute respiratory conditions. 

    If you are conducting spirometry with patients, ensure appropriate infection control procedures are in place, including only using spirometers with inline filters.

    Consider referral to a respiratory laboratory service if available and practical.

    Find out more from the National Asthma Council


    Avoid the use of nebulisers

    Use alternative approaches such as a metered-dose inhaler (MDI) and spacer, as nebulisers have the potential to disperse infectious virus particles.


    Salbutamol purchases limited at pharmacies

    Medicines containing salbutamol (also known under the brand names Ventolin, Asmol or Airomir) are an important part of treatment for people with breathing conditions such as asthma. They are available as prescription medicines, but can also be purchased over the counter at pharmacies.

    To make sure that stocks of this important medicine remain available for people who need them, over-the-counter sales will be limited to one unit per person per purchase. 

    In addition pharmacists have been asked to only sell these medicines to people who have a medically diagnosed breathing condition or who have bought these medicines from them before.

    You can find more information on the TGA website

    Resources on severe asthma and COVID-19

    Asthma Australia and the National Asthma Council have guides for patients and health professionals:


    Stay informed as conditions change

    Australia’s peak policy, medical and consumer groups are continuously investigating the research as it emerges and providing updates to their advice.