Asthma and COVID-19: Your questions answered
Having a child with asthma is challenging enough. It's even more challenging during a pandemic. Asthma and COVID-19 similarly inflame the respiratory tract. COVID can even cause an asthma attack or lead to more serious -- even life-threatening -- complications, like pneumonia or acute respiratory disease. Children with moderate or severe asthma are at higher risk for getting sicker due to the virus.
That's why it's important for parents to be especially careful to manage their child's asthma during these difficult times. Because the virus and asthma present similarly, monitoring and controlling your child's asthma as well as avoiding triggers is key to keeping them safe.
Here are some tips for parents with asthmatic children:
• Get your child and all family members a flu shot.
• Identify what allergies and triggers impact your child's asthma.
• Make sure your child is compliant with medications.
• Keep medications refilled so they are always available; refill an inhaler as soon as you see it is getting low.
• In the event of an asthma attack, administer quick-relief medications as prescribed in your child's asthma care plan.
• Keep routine appointments with your child's physician.
• Send an inhaler if your child is attending in-classroom school.
• Your child should be wearing a mask whenever outside the home.
• Keep your child away from known triggers like pets, dust, mold and cigarette smoke.
• Step up your child's hand-washing; do it frequently and for an ample amount of time with antibacterial soap.
• Limit your child's exposure to others and stay away from crowds.
• Keep an asthmatic child away from anyone who is ill, even in your own household.
So how do you as a parent know if your child's asthma is well controlled? Talk with your child's physician and ask for an individualized plan. General signs of well controlled asthma include:
• No breathing issues when participating in routine activities.
• Infrequent coughing no more than two days a week.
• Waking up from coughing no more than once a month.
• Needing two or less rescue treatments a week.
Because difficulty breathing and shortness of breath can be symptoms of both COVID and asthma, telling the difference may be difficult. Seek immediate or emergency care for your child if they are experiencing:
• Respiratory distress, fast or labored breathing.
• Chest pain.
• Bluish tint to skin, nails.
• Trouble talking or walking.
Parents should not fear seeking help from medical professionals during the pandemic. Health care providers like Advocate Children's Hospital have enhanced safety measures to keep patients and families safe. Our Safe Care Promise reflects our commitment to virtual check-ins, screenings, masking, social distancing and enhanced cleaning.
More questions? Seek information from your child's pediatrician or pulmonologist.
• Children's health is a continuing series. Dr. Shimoni Dharia is division director, Pediatric Pulmonology, for Advocate Children's Hospital.