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Asthma and other conditions

Some conditions or illnesses:

  • are more common when you have asthma
  • can make your asthma symptoms worse
  • may be the cause of symptoms and not asthma

These include:

  • allergies
  • heartburn, acid reflux and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
  • obstructive sleep apnoea
  • nasal polyps
  • asthma-COPD overlap
  • COVID-19 and flu

There are things you can do to control your asthma symptoms if you have another condition or illness.

Allergies

Allergies can make your asthma symptoms worse or increase your risk of an asthma attack.

These include:

Avoiding and treating allergies can help reduce your risk from them if they trigger your asthma.

Avoiding asthma triggers

Heartburn, acid reflux and GORD

Heartburn and acid reflux can make your asthma symptoms worse.

Heartburn is a burning feeling in the chest. It's caused by stomach acid moving up towards the throat (acid reflux). If it keeps happening, it's called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).

If your asthma is severe or difficult to control, your doctor may check if you have acid reflux and recommend treatment.

To help stop or reduce symptoms of acid reflux:

  • avoid stress, smoking and drinking alcohol
  • keep a food diary to see what makes GORD worse
  • try to lose weight if you have overweight or obesity
  • ask your GP or pharmacist about medicines for acid reflux

Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is where your tongue and the walls of your throat relax during sleep. This blocks your airway and interrupts normal breathing.

If you have breathing problems at night, OSA may be the main cause and not asthma.

Symptoms of OSA and when to see a GP

Treatment for OSA may include making lifestyle changes and using a breathing device when you sleep.

Nasal polyps

Nasal polyps are painless soft growths inside your nose. They're usually not serious, but they can keep growing and block your nose if not treated. This can irritate your airways and make your asthma more difficult to treat.

Your GP can often tell if you have nasal polyps by looking inside your nose.

If you have nasal polyps, they may prescribe steroid nose drops or a spray to shrink the polyps.

Asthma-COPD overlap

Asthma-COPD overlap (ACO) is when you have symptoms of both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is the name for a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties.

You’re more at risk of developing COPD if you smoke or breathe in other people's smoke.

COVID-19 and flu

COVID-19 (coronavirus) and flu can make anyone ill.

For most people with asthma, there is no increased risk from COVID-19 or flu. But they may make your asthma symptoms worse. You are at higher risk of this if your asthma is severe or difficult to control.

Keeping up to date with your vaccines is the most important thing you can do to avoid serious illness.

Booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

Getting the flu vaccine

Page last reviewed: 8 December 2023
Next review due: 8 December 2026