Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions. It affects the airways and breathing, which can make a respiratory infection like COVID-19 feel especially concerning. Thankfully, there are ways to keep asthma under control and to help prevent infection from COVID-19.
"Much has changed in our lives due to COVID-19, but managing asthma remains a constant. It's always important to take steps to keep your child's asthma under control," explains Sharon Lemley, RN, Certified Asthma Educator and Chronic Care Coordinator with the Asthma Management Program at Children's Health℠.
See answers to common questions about managing asthma during COVID-19 and ways to stay healthy.
Is asthma a risk factor for COVID-19?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with moderate-to-severe or uncontrolled asthma are considered at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. However, experts are learning more about COVID-19 all the time. Certain studies have found no increased risk of COVID-19 in people with asthma. Additionally, some preliminary studies have shown that certain asthma medications may actually help with COVID-19.
The bottom line? Much is still unknown about COVID-19. Because anyone can experience illness from COVID-19, and viral infections can trigger asthma symptoms, it's especially important to take steps to prevent COVID-19 in children and teens with asthma.
What are the differences between asthma symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms?
Since asthma and COVID-19 both affect the respiratory system, they may share certain symptoms. In addition, respiratory illnesses can trigger asthma symptoms. An asthma flare-up and COVID-19 infection can both cause:
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing
If your child has a fever, this is an indication that they have an infection or viral illness. Any infection – including COVID-19 – can potentially trigger asthma. Therefore, if your child has a fever and cough, you should contact their primary care provider.
How can I keep my child with asthma healthy during COVID-19?
When not controlled, asthma can be a serious condition. Managing your child's asthma is always important, including during the pandemic. To keep your child healthy, it's important to take steps to keep their asthma controlled:
- Follow your asthma action plan. Make sure you are familiar with and following your child's asthma action plan, which is a personalized written plan developed with your child's health care provider to help you manage your child's asthma. "Maintaining asthma control is very important with COVID-19 and every child with asthma should have a personalized asthma action plan," says Lemley.
- Reduce exposure to asthma triggers. Know your child's asthma triggers and help manage the environment so you can reduce their exposure to them. Common asthma triggers include mold spores, changing weather conditions or air quality, cold air, dust mites, exercise, pollen, smoke, stress or viral infections.
- Continue asthma medications. Help your child stick to their asthma medication schedule. Create reminders around your home – such as on your refrigerator, your child's bathroom mirror or on their mobile device – to remind them to take prescribed asthma medications.
Because viral infections and fever can trigger asthma, it's important to take steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in children and teens with asthma. Your family can help prevent COVID-19 by:
- Avoiding crowds and practicing physical distancing
- Getting the COVID-19 vaccine, when eligible
- Practicing proper hand hygiene
- Wearing face masks when in public settings, especially when physical distancing cannot be maintained
Can face masks affect asthma?
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), there is no evidence that wearing a face mask can affect or worsen your asthma. While wearing a mask may take time to adjust to, it is an effective way of preventing COVID-19, which is especially important for children and teens with asthma. If your child still struggles with wearing a face mask, check out these tips to help children adjust to wearing a mask.
There have been a couple of ways in which COVID-19 precautions such as wearing face masks have potentially helped people with asthma, such as:
- Reducing exposure to asthma triggers. Consistent mask-wearing may decrease a child's exposure to airborne pollens, which could be an asthma trigger. For masks to be as effective as possible, they should be washed regularly. Learn tips to help keep face masks clean.
- Reducing the spread of flu and cold viruses. "While the pandemic has been filled with challenges and risks, one unexpected outcome is that, in some ways, it has potentially reduced asthma flareups or attacks," explains Lemley. "This could be due to certain precautions being taken, such as wearing face masks and hand washing. These actions mean that certain viral infections such as flu and RSV were pretty much non-existent this year – and typically, these infections trigger asthma symptoms and flare-ups."
Should people with asthma get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, people with asthma can and should get the COVID-19 vaccine when they are eligible. The vaccine is recommended for anyone who has a chronic medical condition as long as they do not have an allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. The vaccine reduces your chance of getting COVID-19, and is especially important for those who have underlying medical conditions and may be at higher risk for illness from COVID-19.
The vaccine is not yet approved for children under age 12, but clinical trials are underway in younger ages to ensure they are safe. One way to protect the health of children with asthma is by making sure every person in their household who is eligible to become vaccinated does so.
Where can I get more help for managing asthma during COVID-19?
If your child has asthma and you have more questions about their health or participating in certain activities during COVID-19, speak to their asthma care team or primary care provider. They will be most familiar with your child's health and the best ways to manage it. The following organizations are also excellent resources:
For more help, you can also download the Asthma Buddy App from Children's Health. The app includes asthma instruction videos, resources and a daily symptom-check feature. The app is currently available in the Apple and Google Play app stores, or you can text "ASTHMA" to 77-444 to download.
Parents of kids with asthma wonder if it is a risk factor for COVID-19. An expert at Children's Health shares answers and how to keep a child with asthma healthy during the pandemic.
Children's Health offers care for the entire spectrum of asthma, from low-risk to high-risk services. All team members are Certified Asthma Educators and are focused on helping families better manage asthma at home. Learn more about our asthma programs and services.
We're committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family during this time. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID-19 hub.
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