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Due to COVID-19, there are a lot of things to be stressed out about. If you’re a parent, that stress may be compounded by worries about remote education, explaining the importance of social distancing to your child, and keeping the entire family sane, safe, and healthy as you spend an indefinite amount of time at home together.
And although the novel coronavirus doesn’t put children at risk to the degree it does older adults, that doesn’t mean there’s no risk. As of May 2020, only one systematic review with data on children has been published. It concluded that children account for 1-6 percent of the diagnosed COVID-19 cases, and often have milder disease than adults and extremely low mortality rates.1
However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) list moderate-to-severe asthma as a possible risk factor for serious illness from COVID-19.2 So if your child has underlying health conditions such as allergies and asthma (which are often connected), you may be understandably concerned. On top of that, COVID-19 is new, and data on how the virus affects different populations is growing and changing every day. This has led to a lot of uncertainty.
We’re here to tell you what we do know about managing childhood allergies and asthma during this challenging time.
Much of this information is rooted in the basics of pediatric asthma and allergy management. But on April 22nd, the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) Section on Pediatrics released a statement in the Journal of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology making specific recommendations for the treatment of childhood asthma and allergies in light of COVID-19. This article is supported by those recommendations.
Perhaps the key takeaway from the EAACI’s statement is that proper treatment of diseases such as allergic asthma, allergic rhinitis, and other allergic conditions might prevent unnecessary visits to physicians and hospitals, thus reducing risk of exposure to COVID-19.1 That’s why it’s now more important than ever to help your child gain control of their allergy and/or asthma symptoms.
This can seem difficult, given that in-person visits to healthcare providers may have some restrictions across the United States. However, almost all providers are offering telehealth or phone appointments.
Be proactive in making telehealth or phone appointments with your child’s provider. Use this as an opportunity to ask them questions about your child’s symptoms and what you can do at home to help them achieve symptom control.
Here are some tips to help ensure a productive appointment:
Your child’s healthcare provider should give you an exposure reduction plan and an asthma action plan. An exposure reduction plan provides an overview of your child’s allergic and non-allergic triggers and how to avoid them. Asthma action plans are also a sort of “cheat sheet” that tell you how to help keep asthma symptoms controlled, and what to do if they get out of control.
For children, taking medication of any sort can be a struggle, spoonful of sugar or no. When it comes to inhalers, whether rescue inhalers or inhaled corticosteroids, kids often struggle to understand how to use them. But making sure your child is using their medications and using them properly is a critical step in helping to mitigate an emergency.
You can use the time during your telehealth appointment to have your child’s provider watch your child use their medicine and give instruction on proper technique. It may also help kids to have an additional “authority figure” present (figuratively speaking) to guide them through the process.
If you’re concerned that asthma and allergy medications may make you or your child more prone to contracting COVID-19 or more likely to get severely ill as a result, the long and short of it is: don’t be. According to the EAACI’s statement, there’s been no evidence that allergy treatments either increase susceptibility to the illness or severity of disease. They recommend that pediatric allergists treat their patients with allergic asthma, allergic rhinitis, or other allergy conditions according to the usual guidelines, and without restricting the use of any specific medication.
As you’re probably sick of hearing by now, this is a trying time, but we’re all in it together. Despite this phrase fast becoming a cliché, it doesn’t make it any less true. The best thing you can do right now is keep adhering to the social distancing and hygiene practices recommended by the CDC, and keep in touch with your healthcare providers—both for your children and yourself.
Since you’ve been sheltering-in-place, you’ve also been sneezing or sniffling. Could it be allergies? What allergic triggers are hiding in plain sight in your home?
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is, understandably, on all of our minds. But despite worldwide focus on the virus, we should also be mindful of the other conditions that can cause respiratory symptom