shortness of breath (shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention)
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.
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.
Face mask or face covering recommendations for those with respiratory illness
The Ministry of Health is strongly encouraging New Zealanders to wear a mask or face covering in COVID-19 Alert Levels 2 and above. Face masks are now mandatory on public transport across New Zealand. Visit our page for advice on face masks for those with respiratory disease here
For those working in essential services
Depending on whether your condition is moderate or severe, you may fall into the high-risk category, and your GP will be able to advise what steps to take to protect yourself. For those deemed at-risk and also working in essential services, self-isolation may be required in some circumstances.
How to keep yourself safe
Advice to everyone is (including those with asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis, or other respiratory conditions):
Follow the Ministry of Health Guidelines for each Alert Level
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, or use the My Asthma App
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.
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.