For the latest COVID-19 information visit

Remember to:

  • regularly disinfect surfaces
  • wash and dry your hands
  • cough into your elbow
  • do not touch your face
  • stay home if you’re sick, and
  • get tested for COVID-19 if you have cold or flu symptoms.

How do I know if I have COVID-19?

Symptoms include:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature of at least 38°C
  • shortness of breath (shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention)
  • sore throat
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • temporary loss of smell

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have COVID-19, and are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as colds and flu.

Don’t panic if you have some of these symptoms, call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 and get a test if recommended.

How does COVID-19 affect those with respiratory illness?

COVID-19 is known to cause breathing difficulties and coughing, which can be extremely dangerous to those who already have a hard time breathing due to a medical condition.

The people most at risk of severe health impacts from COVID-19 are those with uncontrolled or pre-existing respiratory conditions such as chronic lung disease, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, chronic obstructive respiratory disease (COPD) and emphysema, and severe asthma that needs multiple medications and medical care.

You should work with your GP or specialist if you need help understanding your own level of risk and advice on how to stay healthy.

For Ministry of Health guidance for at-risk people find out more here.

How to keep yourself safe

Advice to everyone is (including those with asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis, or other respiratory conditions):

  • Follow the Ministry of Health Advice
  • Wear a face covering when in public, or where social distancing is an issue (e.g. public transport)
  • Maintain 2 metre physical distancing when in public places
  • Keep up with your medication as prescribed, and always make sure these are well-stocked
  • If you have asthma, follow your asthma action plan, if you do not have one you can download one here.
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and thoroughly dry
  • Avoid touching surfaces and wash your hands before and after you leave home
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs
  • Avoid passing around your mobile phone to other people
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or by covering your mouth and nose with tissues
  • Put used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately
  • Call your doctor or phone Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have symptoms, or visit a local testing station

For those with COPD

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) has provided guidance for those with COPD during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • GOLD strongly encourages people with COPD to follow the advice of the public health teams in their own countries to try to minimise the chance of becoming infected and on when and how to seek help if they show symptoms of the infection.
  • GOLD is not aware of any scientific evidence to support that inhaled (or oral) corticosteroids should be avoided in patients with COPD during the COVID-19 epidemic.
  • COPD patients should maintain their regular therapy.
  • Oxygen therapy should be provided if needed following standard recommendations.

For Ministry of Health guidance for at-risk people find out more here.

Are those with respiratory illness more likely to catch it?

People of all ages can be infected by COVID-19, but people who are over the age of 70, immunocompromised, or with underlying severe medical conditions, are more vulnerable to adverse outcomes from contracting the virus.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for me?

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for people with asthma and other respiratory conditions. Millions of people across the world have now had the Pfizer vaccine, and outcomes are being monitored carefully. Asthma exacerbation and shortness of breath are not listed as side-effects, and people with asthma and other respiratory conditions, including severe asthma, can be confident that vaccination is safe for them.

People with underlying health conditions, including asthma, took part in the clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccination, and it was found to be safe and effective in these groups. The studies of another mRNA-based vaccination produced by Moderna also included people with mild, moderate and severe asthma, and showed that the vaccine was equally effective in these groups.

There are five vaccines for Covid-19 currently available in New Zealand. These include the Pfizer, Pfizer paediatric, AstraZeneca and Novavax (Nuvaxoid) and Jcovden (previously Janssen) which has been provisionally approved by Medsafe. If you want to know more about how these vaccines work, you can visit the Ministry of Health website. If you are still concerned, you can talk to your doctor prior to getting the vaccine.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine impact asthma medications?

There are no current concerns relating to asthma medicines and COVID-19 vaccinations. There is no reason for people with medicated asthma to avoid these vaccines.

Should I get the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine does not protect you against COVID-19 but it will help to reduce demand on hospitals this winter and keep you protected from influenza.

From 18 March, people with chronic respiratory disease will be funded for a FREE seasonal flu vaccine. This includes:

  • • Those with asthma, if on regular preventer therapy.
  • • Those with chronic bronchitis, COPD, cystic fibrosis, emphysema.
  • • Children aged 4 years and under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.
  • • All people 65 years of age and over.
  • Māori and Pacific people over 55
  • Pregnant people

If you think you may have COVID-19

  • If you are symptomatic call Healthline's dedicated COVID-19 hotline on 0800 358 5453 (Healthline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
  • Call your doctor BEFORE turning up to ensure you are not putting people at risk.

For more information on these guidelines, visit the Ministry of Health's dedicated COVID-19 website at

Page last updated: Tuesday 16 November 2022