Asthma After COVID-19: The Relationship Explained

Medically Reviewed By Darragh O'Carroll, MD

Developing asthma after COVID-19 is possible. This is because respiratory infections may trigger inflammation that contributes to asthma. Some people who already have asthma may also experience worse symptoms after infection. Researchers are still trying to understand the exact relationship between asthma and COVID-19.

Studies indicate that some people experience lasting respiratory symptoms after recovering from COVID-19. These may include asthma-like symptoms.

This article discusses asthma after COVID-19, including research about the possible link and effects. It also looks at the impact of vaccination, when to see a doctor, and some frequently asked questions.

Someone coughs into the crook of their elbow while under a blanket.
Photography by Johner Images/Getty Images

It is possible to develop asthma after having COVID-19. This includes developing asthma despite not having it before and a worsening of symptoms if you already had asthma.

A 2023 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suggests that in rare cases, COVID-19 may cause new cases of asthma. This could be due to inflammation of the airways caused by an immune response. Asthma results from inflammation that obstructs the airways, making breathing more difficult.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) also suggests that infections with respiratory viruses may be a common cause of asthma in adulthood. This includes infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

A small 2022 study looked at children who received hospital care for COVID-19. It suggests that 41.5% experienced asthma-like symptoms after discharge. Many of the children also had other risk factors for asthma, such as a family history of the condition.

The study also suggests that respiratory viruses are one of the main triggers of asthma. This means that respiratory infections, including SARS-CoV-2, may make symptoms worse if you already have asthma.

However, COVID-19 symptoms can resemble asthma symptoms, which may make them hard to tell them apart. COVID-19 may also cause Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source longer-term symptoms or damage unrelated to asthma.

If you have questions about your symptoms or they last for more than a few weeks, contact your doctor for advice.

Cause vs. increased risk

COVID-19 may contribute to the development of asthma or worsening of asthma symptoms. However, it may not be the only factor.

Researchers believe that asthma develops due to a combination of factors, including genetic and environmental factors. For example, having a respiratory infection along with a genetic susceptibility to asthma may increase your risk.

The study from 2022 also suggests that asthma-like symptoms after COVID-19 were more common in children who had:

  • a history of asthma and allergies
  • a family history of asthma

However, not everyone with COVID-19 will develop asthma, and not everyone with asthma has had COVID-19.

Effects of COVID-19 on asthma

Here are some other possible effects of COVID-19 on asthma:

  • Flare-ups: Some people who already have asthma may experience flare-ups during and after COVID-19.
  • Difficulty managing symptoms: Some people with asthma may have increased difficulty managing asthma symptoms after COVID-19. This means they may need more maintenance treatment for asthma. 
  • Complications: COVID-19 may increase the risk Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source of complications and hospitalization for people with moderate to severe asthma or asthma that isn’t responding to treatment.
  • Returning symptoms: People who had childhood asthma but no asthma in adulthood may see symptoms return after COVID-19. However, this can also happen without experiencing COVID-19.
  • Increased risk with medications: Frequent oral corticosteroid use for asthma may increase your risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection or complications from COVID-19.

Researchers are still investigating the relationship between COVID-19 and asthma. Further studies may be needed to confirm these effects.

Learn more about treatment options for asthma and COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccination and asthma

In rare cases, people have reported developing asthma or asthma attacks after receiving a vaccine for COVID-19.

In trial data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 0.5% Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source of participants who received the Moderna mRNA-1273 COVID-19 vaccine experienced an adverse reaction. These included asthma and other conditions. Only 0.2% of participants experienced an adverse reaction after receiving the placebo.

A 2022 case report also suggests that repeated vaccination with the Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine may increase your risk of an asthma attack if you already have asthma.

However, these reactions are very rare, and the protection you receive from a COVID-19 vaccination may outweigh the risks. This is because COVID-19 may also contribute to asthma and can be serious.

The CDC Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source still recommends that everyone with asthma who is eligible stays up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations.

If you have questions about the benefits or risks of vaccination, contact your doctor for advice.

When to see a doctor

Contact a doctor if you:

  • have symptoms of a respiratory infection that:
    • do not improve within a few days
    • go away and come back
  • care for a child and they develop a high fever
  • have symptoms that feel severe or concerning
  • have symptoms that don’t improve with treatment
  • experience symptoms after receiving a vaccination
  • have questions about your health or treatment
  • experience new or worsening symptoms of asthma, such as:

Call 911 for any severe symptoms of respiratory conditions, such as:

Read more about when to contact a doctor for possible COVID-19 or asthma.

FAQ

Darragh O’Carroll, M.D., has also reviewed the following frequently asked questions.

What is “long COVID asthma”?

“Long COVID asthma” isn’t a recognized condition or medical term. However, some people may use it to refer to having symptoms of asthma when experiencing long COVID-19. This may include new asthma development or worse symptoms in someone who already has asthma.

What are the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the respiratory system?

Researchers are still investigating the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the respiratory system. Some possible lingering symptoms include:

Read more about the long-term effects of COVID-19.

Summary 

Respiratory infections can trigger the development of new cases of asthma. This includes infection with SARS-CoV-2, this virus that causes COVID-19. Some people who already have asthma may also experience worse symptoms after having COVID-19.

Asthma usually develops due to a combination of factors, including genetic susceptibilities. This means that while COVID-19 may contribute to the development of asthma, it may not be the only factor.

In rare cases, people have reported asthma flare-ups after receiving a vaccination for COVID-19. However, the CDC still recommends vaccination, as the benefits may outweigh the risks.

If you have questions about your symptoms, COVID-19 and asthma, or vaccination, talk with your doctor. Also, contact your doctor for any respiratory symptoms that do not improve quickly.

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Medical Reviewer: Darragh O'Carroll, MD
Last Review Date: 2023 Jul 25
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