COVID-19 advice for people taking steroids

Steroids are an important treatment for people with conditions such as arthritis, vasculitis and joint pain. They’re usually taken as tablets or injections into muscles, joints or soft tissues.

7 May 2020: updated guidance about steroids.

  • If you are already taking steroid tablets you should carry on taking them, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

  • If you've been taking steroid tablets for four weeks or more, and you develop symptoms of COVID-19 talk to your GP or rheumatology team as soon as possible about your medication. They may tell you to stop taking some drugs, but the latest advice is that steroids should be continued if you have COVID-19. However, the dose you take and when during the day you need to take your tablets may need to be changed slightly. It’s important you talk to your doctor about this.

  • If you’re not currently taking steroids and you develop joint pain and swelling, your doctor should only start steroid tablets or give you a steroid injection if there are no other options for your condition. And in which case your doctor should give you the lowest possible dose of steroids for the shortest possible time.

It can be dangerous to suddenly stop taking steroids, as they can cause withdrawal symptoms. If you are taking steroid tablets you should carry a steroid alert card. It is important for a healthcare professional to know if you are on steroids and the dose you are taking, in case you suddenly become ill or have an accident.

Where has this information come from?

This information was developed by NHS England and is referred to in the NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) rapid guidelines for managing rheumatological autoimmune, inflammatory and metabolic bone disorders during the coronavirus outbreak.