Parents of children with asthma have medications, inhalers, and monitoring physical activity and other triggers to worry about. Now, COVID-19, is the new concern in town. Are kids with asthma at greater risk for coronavirus? Doctors say, based on what we know now, maybe not.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning that people with asthma are at an increased risk of getting very sick (and with more severe symptoms) from the novel coronavirus. The CDC noted that COVID-19 can cause asthma attacks, pneumonia, and can possibly lead to acute respiratory disease — conditions that people with asthma are already more likely to get. So should parents of kids with asthma be concerned?
"The novel coronavirus COVID-19 does not seem to cause severe disease in children. Very rare reports of children getting hospitalized," board-certified allergist Raphael Strauss, M.D., of Strauss Allergy and Asthma tells Romper. In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, only 6% of more than 2,000 Chinese pediatric patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 got severely ill, compared with 18.5% for adults. However, Leah Alexander, M.D., pediatrician and the medical consultant for parenting blog Mom Loves Best, adds that there is currently "insufficient evidence of how COVID-19 affects children with chronic medical conditions such as asthma.” Kids with asthma do not seem to be at greater risk of contracting the virus, Dr. Strauss notes. However, public health experts are constantly learning more about the novel coronavirus, and the World Health Organization (WHO) warns anyone with a preexisting medical condition such as asthma that they might be “more vulnerable to becoming severely ill.”
Strauss says that there are no set guidelines yet on how to treat and prevent COVID-19 in children with asthma and emphasizes the need for everyone to follow the current guidelines to stay far away from others. Strauss says to parents of kids with asthma, "Take the recommendations seriously." That means avoid being around other people and cancel all the playdates.
The CDC says it's "extra important" for those with long-term health conditions to take steps to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19. Georgine Nanos, M.D., a family doctor with advanced training in epidemiology, tells Romper that the precautions that we've been taking as adults, like avoiding interacting with people outside of our homes, are just as important to put into practice for kids. She also says that good old-fashioned hand-washing will have the biggest impact on preventing the spread of the disease. "Remind children to thoroughly wash their hands at every opportunity and especially before eating or touching their face," she says. She suggests that you teach them how, and watch them do it, to make sure they are doing it properly.
Dr. Nanos says parents of kids with asthma just need to continue to be vigilant with one added step. "Take extra care to avoid unnecessary exposure to people." Playdates, family gatherings, and birthday parties can wait.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.
Dong, Y., et al. (2020) Epidemiological Characteristics of 2143 Pediatric Patients With 2019 Coronavirus Disease in China. Pediatrics, https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/03/16/peds.2020-0702
Dr. Raphael E. Strauss, M.D., FAAP, allergist at Strauss Allergy and Asthma in Long Island, New York
Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., FAAP, pediatrician and the medical consultant for parenting blog Mom Loves Best
Dr. Georgine Nanos, M.D., MPH, family doctor with advanced training in epidemiology and CEO of Kind Health Group in San Diego, California