As guidance on COVID-19 continues to change, experts agree that focusing on the things we can control is the best medicine for preventing illness and asthma episodes this flu season.
“The best way parents can protect their kids is to focus on keeping asthma under control and doing what we can to prevent illness,” said Dr. Brian Schroer, director of the Center for Allergy and Immunology at Akron Children’s Hospital. “During these times when it seems things are out of our control, getting a flu shot and wearing a mask when in public are great ways we can prevent severe illness, especially in patients with asthma.”
Guidance on asthma:
Now is a good time to review your child’s asthma management plan with a physician and make sure you have the right medications to treat your child’s symptoms. Don’t forget to talk with your child, too, about keeping asthma under control by avoiding asthma triggers such as being around others who are sick, allergies or irritants like cigarette smoke.
“It’s important that parents make sure their child’s asthma is controlled because, when it is, it seems they aren’t at higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19,” said Dr. Schroer. “If asthma is under control, kids are also less likely to end up in the hospital if they get influenza.”
According to healthychild.org, well-controlled asthma usually means your child is:
- coughing on no more than 2 days per week
- waking up during the night from coughing no more than once per month (or no more than 2 nighttime awakenings for children 12 years and older)
- needing 2 or less rescue treatments per week (this does not include pre-treating before exercise)
- not requiring oral steroids such as prednisone in the last 12 months
- able to fully participate in regular activity without breathing limitations
It’s safe for kids with asthma and allergies to wear a mask at school, and having symptoms under control will make it more comfortable to wear the mask. Masks don’t make asthma symptoms worse and are even more important for patients who have lung problems like asthma.
Guidance on flu:
A flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent the flu so it’s highly recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu shot (with rare exceptions). It’s true the flu shot doesn’t cover all strands of the flu, but experts agree it’s better to have protection of some strands than none at all. If your child does get the flu then flu-specific antiviral medications can lessen the severity and shorten the duration of flu.
COVID–19 and flu viruses are thought to spread in similar ways – from person-to-person through droplets and aerosols in the air from an infected person coughing, sneezing or talking. All the things we do to protect ourselves against COVID-19 – safe social distancing, masking and good hand hygiene – should also help us protect against flu.
Guidance on COVID-19:
COVID-19 and flu are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but are caused by different viruses. Unlike the flu, there is currently no preventative treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 for children. The best way to prevent it is to avoid exposure. COVID-19 affects different people in different ways and brings a wide-range of symptoms – from mild to severe. Since symptoms can be similar to those experienced with the flu, call your health care provider for guidance if your child is experiencing:
- Fever (temperature 100.4 °F or higher)
- Sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- New onset of cough (for a child with chronic allergic/asthmatic cough, see if there is a change from their usual cough)
- Diarrhea, vomiting, or stomachache
- New onset of headache
- Changes in or loss of taste or smell
It’s important to monitor your child for COVID-19 symptoms every day and take precautions to protect your child by encouraging safe social distancing, masking and good hand hygiene.
“While preventing COVID-19 is the best way for children, especially those with asthma, to stay healthy, notifying your provider early if symptoms of infection appear may help to lower the risk for respiratory complications,” added Dr. Schroer.
Getting sick does happen despite our best efforts, but being proactive can help lessen the risk. Schedule your child’s flu shot today at an Akron Children’s location near you. Or, for help managing asthma, schedule an appointment with Akron Children’s allergy or pulmonary medicine departments.