As someone with asthma and allergies, Dr. Brian Schroer, director of Allergy and Immunology for Akron Children’s Hospital, has been closely following the research on how the COVID-19 virus can affect those with asthma. The good news is that patients with asthma are not much more at risk than other patients, he said.
“It seems that, for some patients who have severe asthma or lung disease, they are at higher risk for severe outcomes due to COVID infection. But most patients with asthma are not more susceptible to severe COVID than anyone else,” Dr. Schroer said.
According to the American Lung Association, asthma is the most common chronic condition in children, currently affecting 6.1 million children under 18 in the U.S. At this time of year, when seasonal allergies can lead to more severe asthma symptoms for many patients, Dr. Schroer said he understands parents have questions about COVID-19 and asthma.
“Everyone is concerned if their child has a cough or trouble breathing; could it be COVID?,” he said. “We are right in the height of tree pollen season and start of grass pollen season so there are many reasons kids with asthma would have worse symptoms right now.”
Asthma can make patients at risk for other illnesses.
“In general, it has been thought that patients with asthma are more susceptible to viral infections, such as flu, RSV or rhinovirus,” he said.
Dr. Brian Schroer works with patients to ensure their asthma is controlled. The best defense for asthma sufferers to stay healthy is to be prepared and have your asthma as well controlled as possible, Dr. Schroer said.
That means making sure you have the right medications to treat your child’s symptoms. Check expiration dates on the prescriptions you are using, and keep in mind that while inhalers may be OK past that date, the medication loses its effectiveness over time. It might be time to schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician or asthma specialist.
Dr. Schroer said inhalers remain the best way to use asthma medications. But the technique of using an inhaler is not something that comes easily, especially for younger patients.
“Inhalers can be very complicated and need to be used correctly in order to help,” he said. “Your best resource is going to your physician’s office and having a nurse or doctor demonstrate the technique and then having the doctor or nurse watch you do it so they can coach you.”
For patients who are struggling to keep their asthma controlled, Dr. Schroer said there are other treatments available. Biologic therapies in the form of injections and infusions can be effective for severe asthma sufferers.
He also recommends the COVID vaccine for his patients who are eligible for it.
“The vaccine has been shown to decrease the risk of severe consequences from COVID,” he said. “Even though severe consequences of COVID are rare in children, the vaccine has been shown to reduce that risk even further. I recommend that all of my patients with asthma or allergies receive the approved vaccines for COVID, and influenza.
He added that there is no evidence that people with allergies are at higher risk for the very rare allergic reactions to COVID vaccines. Allergic reactions to the COVID vaccine occur at a rate of five reactions per 1 million vaccinations, he said.
Dr. Schroer said his own experience with asthma and allergies helps him as a provider.
“Having gone through it, and using many of the medicines I prescribe, I know there is a lot to learn. And I have been worried about similar concerns,” he said. “That experience does make it easier to sympathize with my patients and I hope it helps me partner with my patients.”
To schedule an appointment in the Center for Allergy and Immunology, call 330-KID-APPT.