Millions of people around the world have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Most people experience mild or no side effects after vaccination. Severe side effects are rare for the three COVID-19 vaccines approved in the United States.

Currently, the latest scientific evidence suggests that people with asthma are not at an elevated risk of developing side effects from COVID-19 vaccines.

Most health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend that people with asthma get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as the vaccine becomes available to them.

Keep reading to learn why most health experts recommend people with asthma get a COVID-19 vaccine.

While some people have anecdotally reported worsening asthma symptoms after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, current scientific evidence hasn’t found a clear link between asthma and an increased risk of side effects.

In a 2021 case study, a single person with severe asthma experienced worsening symptoms following the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. However, researchers were not able to definitively establish a cause-and-effect relationship and were unable to draw conclusions based on a single case study. More research is needed to determine if any relationship exists.

The benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh any possible chance of worsening asthma symptoms. This is especially the case if you have severe or uncontrolled asthma, or if you have any comorbidities — other conditions in addition to your asthma — such as diabetes or obesity.

Yes. The CDC recommends people with asthma get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon they can.

People with moderate, severe, or uncontrolled asthma are more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than people without asthma.

Clinical trials assessing the safety and effectiveness of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States included people with moderate or severe asthma. For example, the Moderna clinical trials included people with chronic lung diseases such as:

Along with the CDC, most other health authorities also recommend people with asthma get a COVID-19 vaccine, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and Global Initiative for Asthma.

People with asthma don’t appear to be at a higher risk of developing COVID-19 vaccine side effects. The chances of developing severe complications from vaccines are very rare.

Here’s a brief look at the most commonly reported side effects of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently used in the United States.

All statistics come from the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and COVID data tracker. They are current as of December 31, 2021.

Side effects submitted via VAERS are anecdotal and are not verified by the CDC as vaccine-related. They can be submitted by anyone.

Pfizer-BioNTech

From the 305,145,563 Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines administered, the CDC lists 322,281 total reported adverse events, including 769 cases of asthma and 9 cases of exercise-induced asthma. The 10 most common side effects are:

Moderna

From the 198,923,979 Moderna COVID-19 vaccines administered, the CDC lists 329,457 reported adverse events. Asthma was reported 688 times and exercise-induced asthma three times. The 10 most common side effects are:

Johnson & Johnson

From the 17,863,666 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines administered, the CDC lists 63,801 reported adverse events, including 128 cases of asthma and 2 cases of exercise-induced asthma. The 10 most common side effects are:

  • headache
  • fever
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • pain
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • pain in limbs
  • labored breathing
  • muscle aches

How to find a COVID-19 vaccine near you

COVID-19 vaccines are available for free in the United States. In many areas, you can now walk into pharmacies and get vaccinated without an appointment. You can find vaccines in your area by:

  • using VaccineFinder, a service from the federal government
  • asking friends and family
  • checking your local pharmacy’s website
  • contacting your state health department
  • calling your doctor

The risks of having COVID-19 seem to be similar in people with asthma compared with people who don’t have asthma. Here’s the research so far:

  • A January 2022 meta-analysis found that preexisting asthma was associated with a reduced risk of dying from COVID-19 in the United States. However, this study does not mention the vaccination status of the participants in the referenced studies.
  • In a January 2021 research review, researchers found that people with asthma only made up 1.6 percent of cases out of a group of 161,271 people with COVID-19. Based on the information they collected about preexisting conditions, researchers concluded that asthma isn’t associated with an increased risk of developing COVID-19.
  • According to the CDC, people with moderate to severe or uncontrolled asthma are more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19. A March 2021 study found that asthma is associated with a higher cost of medical care in people with COVID-19, and that people with severe asthma have a significantly longer length of treatment on average.
  • A June 2020 study found that COVID-19 wasn’t linked to worsening severe asthma, possibly because drugs used to manage asthma inhibit viral replication.
  • The increased risk of hospitalization in people with moderate to severe asthma is largely because people with moderate to severe asthma are older, and COVID-19 risks are greater for that population.
  • A May 2021 study found slightly less cases of worsening asthma since the start of the pandemic. However, people with asthma may have more anxiety about getting COVID-19.

Despite the fact that research hasn’t found that having mild asthma increases your risk of getting COVID-19, it’s still important for people with asthma to take precautions to avoid illness and to make sure they take all their asthma medications as prescribed.

Are asthma patients at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19?

Your risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 while having asthma depends on a combination of the following factors:

  • the severity of your asthma
  • your age
  • how well your asthma is managed with your current treatment plan
  • whether you have any other medical conditions

While there’s still conflicting evidence regarding the link between asthma and developing severe illness from COVID-19, the CDC still suggests poorer potential outcomes in people with moderate to severe asthma.

No matter how severe your asthma is, COVID-19 vaccination can help decrease your risk of developing severe illness from SARS-CoV-2.

Who should not get the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine?

Currently, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is only approved for adults 18 years of age and older.

While this vaccine has been found to be safe throughout clinical trials, the CDC does notrecommend the Moderna series for people who are allergic to polyethylene glycol (PEG). The same rule applies to the Pfizer vaccine.

What are some exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine?

Currently, the CDC has identified two types of workplace exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine. The first is if you have an allergy to any of the ingredients, such as PEG or polysorbate. PEG is an ingredient in both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine contains polysorbate.

The second possible workplace exemption is known as a religious exemption.

Can I take the Pfizer vaccine if I have severe allergies?

The CDC recommends that if you have a severe allergy to any of the ingredients in a COVID-19 vaccine, you should not get the vaccine.

Like the Moderna vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine contains PEG. You shouldn’t get this vaccine if you have an allergy to PEG. If you cannot get either of these vaccines due to an allergy, you may be able to get a different type of vaccine.

However, the CDC says that COVID-19 vaccination is safe for people with other types of severe allergies. These include allergies to:

  • foods
  • latex
  • animals
  • pollen
  • medications

Learn more about allergies and the COVID-19 vaccines.

Asthma doesn’t have a cure, but a combination of breathing exercises and medications can treat it. Some medications are quick-acting and treat asthma attacks, while others are for long-term management.

Asthma treatment options

The following treatments can help manage asthma:

  • Breathing exercises. Doctors and occupational therapists can teach you breathing exercises that can help you increase lung capacity and cut down on severe asthma symptoms.
  • Bronchodilators. Bronchodilators are medications used to relax the muscles in your airways and to stimulate quick relief of asthma symptoms.
  • Long-term medications. A number of medications may be recommended for long-term use to reduce symptoms. These medications include:
    • anti-inflammatories (i.e., inhaled corticosteroids or leukotriene inhibitors)
    • long-acting bronchodilators
    • biologic therapy drugs
  • Bronchial thermoplasty. Bronchial thermoplasty is a treatment that uses electrodes to heat your airways to prevent the muscles in your airway from tightening. This treatment is only for people with severe asthma and is not widely available.

Questions for your doctor

If you have any particular concerns about getting vaccinated against COVID-19, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor. Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask:

  • Am I at an increased risk of developing side effects?
  • Is this vaccine safe and effective for people with asthma?
  • Can my vaccine interact with any medications I’m taking?
  • Can any home remedies interact with COVID-19 vaccines?
  • What should I do if I notice my asthma symptoms worsening?

What you can do at home: Tips for managing asthma

No home remedies can treat asthma attacks. Asthma attacks require a rescue inhaler and immediate medical attention.

The following home remedies may help you manage general asthma symptoms:

  • eating an overall balanced diet
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • reducing your exposure to lung irritants, like dust, pollen, or mold
  • avoiding smoking
  • getting vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19
  • taking precautions to avoid respiratory illness, like frequent handwashing and wearing a face mask

Severe asthma attacks require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of an asthma emergency can include:

  • severe shortness of breath and trouble speaking
  • rapid breathing that causes your chest or ribs to visibly retract
  • an inability to perform normal activities
  • symptoms that don’t get better after using a rescue inhaler
  • trouble breathing in or out fully
  • developing blue or pale fingernails, lips, or face
  • flaring nostrils while breathing rapidly
  • straining of your chest muscles while breathing heavily

It’s important to also seek medical attention if you develop other concerning symptoms that don’t fall into any of these categories.

If you’re not sure whether you’re having an asthma emergency, it’s best to seek emergency medical care.

The National Health Service (NHS) recommends the following steps when having an asthma emergency:

  1. Sit upright and try to take slow and steady breaths. Try your best to remain calm.
  2. Take one puff of your rescue inhaler every 30 to 60 seconds for up to 10 puffs.
  3. Call an ambulance if:
    • you don’t have your inhaler
    • you feel worse after using your inhaler
    • you don’t feel better after 10 puffs
    • you feel worried at any point

Most health authorities, including the CDC and WHO, recommend that people with asthma get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

Some people report their asthma symptoms flaring up after vaccination, but there’s no scientific evidence that people with asthma are at an increased risk of vaccine side effects.

If you have asthma and have concerns about getting vaccinated, you can make an appointment with your doctor to ask any questions you may have.

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