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COVID-19 and Lung Health

COVID-19 and Lung Health

COVID-19 and Lung Health

In this time of COVID-19, it’s especially important that everyone with a chronic lung disease, such as asthma or COPD, protect their lung health.

People with lung disease are more likely to get seriously ill from respiratory infections.

Take COVID-19/other vaccines

Follow your treatment plan

  • Use all of your medicines as directed by your healthcare provider, including inhaled medicines or pills.
  • If you smoke, stop smoking. Your healthcare provider can prescribe medications to help you quit.
  • Use your treatments and equipment as prescribed (oxygen therapy, nebulizer, CPAP) and keep them clean and in good order.
  • Make sure that you have 90-day supplies of medications so that you have all that you need.
    • Be in touch with your healthcare provider, pharmacy, and insurance company, if you don’t have what you need.
  • If you have one, refer to your written or electronic action plan, which can help you make day-to-day management decisions.

Take measures to avoid getting sick

  • Wash your hands often and properly, by washing with soap and water for 20 seconds; use alcohol-based sanitizer (60% alcohol) if soap and water are unavailable.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Wear a high-quality mask (N95, KN95, or KF94) as recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Encourage family members who have symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose, etc.) to get tested for COVID-19 and isolate themselves as recommended.
  • Practice self-care, including getting enough sleep, managing excess stress, quitting smoking, and eating a nutritious diet.

    Having a lung problem means you are at greater risk of getting seriously ill if you get COVID-19, so it’s best to do what you can to stay healthy!

Call your healthcare provider if you have any concerning symptoms, such as

  • A high fever
  • A cough that’s unusual for you
  • Unusual shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Loss of smell/taste
  • Other symptoms that are out of the ordinary Many of these symptoms can be seen with other
  • infections, including flu. It is important to get tested (with a home kit or at testing site) if you suspect you have COVID-19 or the flu. You may need treatment with medicines that work best in the first few days of illness.

Seek prompt medical attention if

  • You have severe shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion, or other symptoms that could be a medical emergency.

Be aware of symptoms. Long-COVID

  • If you have had COVID-19 infection in the past and your health condition continues to remain worse for more than four weeks when compared to before your COVID illness, you may have a condition called “Long-COVID”. Please call your healthcare provider and ask to be evaluated.

Online version adapted and updated September 2023.  Reviewed March 2024.
© 2022 American Thoracic Society. All rights reserved.
Illustration credit: OurDesigns, Inc.


This ATS Patient Information Series fact sheet is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award to the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of nor endorsement, by CDC/HHS or the U.S. Government. 


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