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Protecting children with asthma from COVID-19

An asthma expert explains how to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19 in hospitals by preventing asthma attacks

Children diagnosed with asthma are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19, even though their symptoms may not be as severe as those of adults. Parents and caregivers can reduce chances of exposing their children with asthma to the virus by managing their asthma and preventing asthma attacks that would lead to hospitalization.

Asthma symptoms vary from person to person, but all symptoms can be controlled using proper preventative techniques.

“If your asthma is under control, then the likelihood of you experiencing an asthma attack decreases,” said Genny Carrillo, MD, ScD, associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health and director of the Program on Asthma Research and Education.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, China reported that patients under the age of 18 were diagnosed with the disease, and one patient died due to complications. However, children diagnosed with COVID-19 have generally presented mild symptoms. Described symptoms in children include fever, runny nose and cough—symptoms similar to the common cold. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. It is not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk for severe illness, such as children with underlying medical conditions and special health care needs. There is more to learn about how the disease affects children, so it is imperative to have a chronic condition like asthma under control.

“One of the most important things to prevent asthma attacks is medication adherence,” Carrillo said. “Often, people find their medication reduces the occurrence of their symptoms, so they think they do not need their medication anymore.”

Parents should follow the physician’s orders regarding prescribed medication in order to avoid an asthma episode. Severe wheezing, consistent coughing, rapid breathing and tightness in the chest and neck are common signs of an asthma attack.

How can we protect our children with asthma?

Because entire families are mandated to stay at home, with limited permissions given for essential workers, households are busier and more crowded than ever. Decreasing asthma triggers is of utmost importance in preventing flare-ups, so families should keep a clean, allergen-free home environment. To maintain a healthy home, keep in mind the following:

  • Do not clean if your kids are in the same room, and do not use harsh chemicals. Use green products for cleaning, or look for recipes that include chemically-safe products like vinegar.
  • Dust your home using a damp towel to prevent dust from dispersing into the air.
  • Open the windows for a while to ventilate the house.
  • When cooking, turn on the stove vent to decrease indoor air pollut
  • Eat in the kitchen, dining or living room to keep pests away from crumbs.
  • If using a printer frequently, open a window to ventilate the room. Printers are a big contributor to indoor air pollution.
  • Make sure your child has all necessary asthma medications, and stock up as
  • Follow your asthma action plan.
  • Ask if your physician offers virtual or telephone appointments to avoid going to doctor’s offices or hospitals in person.

The spring season is the perfect storm for asthma and allergy patients: 60 percent of all people with asthma also suffer from allergies, and this number increases to 85 percent for kids. People with asthma can have many different triggers, ranging from exposure to dust mites, grass or strong odors. Exercise and changes in the weather also can trigger attacks. A number of factors can trigger asthma attacks simultaneously, and asthma can get worse at night.

Asthma attacks can be a startling experience. Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that parents keep their children’s asthma symptoms controlled to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19.

When talking with your children about COVID-19, follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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