The corona pandemic has been with us for well over six months now and we have seen the devastation it has caused in many countries across the world.
Here in Australia things have been less drastic, but particularly here in Victoria we have experienced the devastating effect this illness can have on people.
Maybe more than any other recent illness, COVID-19 has shown us how different the effect of illnesses can be on children compared to ‘big people’. Often, infectious illnesses like influenza or bacterial infections can make children sicker much quicker than adults and, often, to a more severe degree. So it was only natural that parents all over the world worried what this would mean to their children when the pandemic spread across the globe.
We now know that COVID-19 is not a major risk to children. In fact, overall it seems to be less a threat to children than the seasonal influenza that can cause very severe illness – and sometimes even death – in children. Australia has seen only very few children with severe illness from COVID-19. No child in Australia has died from this illness.
But all over the world families, parents and doctors have been worried about another group that may be severely affected: children with asthma, particularly those children with ‘severe asthma’.
Let me give you the good news straight out: we have not seen children with asthma being at greater risk of complications because of this coronavirus. Even if a child with asthma does happen to catch COVID-19 they do not get sicker than children without asthma. Neither at Monash Children’s Hospital, where I work most days, nor elsewhere in Australia or anywhere else in the world have we seen children with asthma becoming very sick from coronavirus. This is very reassuring news. And to top it all off: adults with asthma who contract COVID-19 also do not seem to do any worse than adults without asthma.
After evaluating the international data on COVID-19 and asthma in children most of my colleagues and I have recommended for children with asthma to continue their treatment and daily life as before. For most asthmatic children there is no medical reason to keep them away from others or from school.
The most important thing for any child with asthma is good asthma control – whether that’s during the current pandemic or not.
So make sure your child’s asthma plan is up to date and school have a copy, you’ve got their medicines available and know how to administer them. And if any of this needs updating, see your friendly GP to polish up the edges. Almost all children with asthma are perfectly ok to attend school even during this pandemic. For those with very tricky asthma or complex medical conditions a discussion with your GP or Paediatrician will help map out the best way forward.