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Is it safe for a person with asthma to return to in-person classes during the pandemic?

By: Drs. Khalid Ahmad, Robyn Kreiner, and Raphael Strauss, Strauss Allergy & Asthma (Westbury & Commack, NY)

Based on current data, there is no evidence that well-controlled asthma is a risk factor for a poor outcome with Coronavirus infection. The CDC listed asthma as a high-risk category early in the pandemic because respiratory viruses are known to exacerbate asthma. However, the data coming out of the US, Europe, and the rest of the world, do not support that early assumption. The percentage of patients hospitalized with COVID and asthma is the same or lower than would be expected in the general population. Currently, the CDC does list moderate to severe persistent asthma as a POSSIBLE risk factor for more severe coronavirus infection.  Children, in general, are at low risk for severe COVID infection and that has held true for children with asthma as well.

In terms of children going back to school, each family needs to make their own decision. It’s not just about the risk of Covid-19. The toll on mental and emotional health for children who do not go to school is considerable and must be weighed against the perceived risk of infection. Other important factors to consider are whether there are other high-risk people living in your home, can your child learn well remotely, is there adequate supervision?

Based on current information:

  1. Children with asthma are not at higher risk for bad outcomes with Covid-19.
  2. Children and adults with asthma have no physiologic problems with wearing a mask. Although it may feel difficult to breathe, you can practice wearing a mask for longer and longer periods until you get used to it. Try different materials to see what feels best.
  3. Contact your doctor to discuss your or your child’s individual risk and treatment plan. This is ideal for a telemedicine visit.
  4. It has never been more important to make sure asthma is optimally controlled.
  5. Your entire family should get the flu vaccine this season. You want to minimize the anxiety and stress of having a sick family member this winter. Symptoms of flu are similar to COVID and can be difficult to distinguish.