Is COVID-19 more dangerous for kids with asthma? Should they wear face coverings, or will it exacerbate their breathing issues? Are children with asthma more susceptible to developing COVID-19? These are all questions Scott Schroeder, MD Chief of Pediatric Pulmonology and Allergy at Tufts Medical Center has been fielding from worried parents over the last few months. We talked with Dr. Schroeder to get answers to these questions and more.
Are children with asthma more susceptible to developing COVID-19?
“There’s no data which suggests that kids with asthma are more susceptible. In fact, children in general seem to be more protected, and the reasons for that are probably multiple,” said Dr. Schroeder. Schroeder says one reason may have to do with the ACE2 receptor, a protein which sits on the surface of many cells in our bodies. People with conditions like diabetes, obesity and heart disease have more of these receptors which may act as a doorway for the virus to enter our bodies. “Kids don’t have as many ACE2 receptors, which suggest it’s harder for COVID-19 to gain entry into a child’s body,” explained Schroeder. “Plus, most children get another type of Coronavirus when they’re young which may offer them some level of protection or immunity.”
Should an asthmatic child wear a face covering? If so, which type is best for him or her?
“We should all be wearing face coverings, and that goes for children or adults with asthma,” said Dr. Schroeder. “Hospital grade masks are better than most cloth options.” Dr. Schroeder stated that the way you wear your face covering is just as important as the type you chose. “It should be worn over the nose, over the mouth and under the chin. Look for face coverings with multiple layers. While wearing a gaiter isn’t as effective as other face coverings, it is better than not wearing one at all. I know that many children are worried about infecting their grandparents or older adults, so encourage them to wear their face coverings when they are around them.” Dr. Schroeder also noted that when most adults cough, we can propel and spread phlegm or aerosol drops at 60 MPH. “Most kids cannot generate that amount of expiratory force but they should still wear their face coverings when recommended."
Do you recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for asthmatic children?
“I absolutely recommend that everyone get the vaccine when it becomes available to them,” Dr. Schroeder stated. “This goes for children with asthma, too. It’s important that the public understand that vaccines are incredibly safe. We haven’t seen outbreaks of whooping cough, tetanus or diphtheria because of those vaccines. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘We are a global economy and if one of us is not safe, then none of us are safe.’”
Is it safe for a child with asthma to visit the hospital or doctor’s office right now?
“I want to stress the importance of seeing your physician when warranted,” said Dr. Schroeder. “Hospitals are taking all necessary precautions to ensure you’re safe when you must visit one. This includes increased sanitation and making sure everyone who enters is given a clean mask upon arrival. Tufts Children’s has taken every step to ensure patients and families are safe when they come here for an appointment. The danger doesn’t come from visiting the hospital, but rather from avoiding it when you or your child needs to be seen.”