As someone with asthma and allergies, Dr. Brian Schroer, director of Allergy and Immunology for Akron Children’s Hospital, is closely following the research on coronavirus on how the virus can affect those with asthma. It’s too soon to make broad conclusions, he said, but one thing is clear: Children, including those with asthma, are at low risk of being diagnosed with coronavirus.
At this time of year, when allergy-related asthma is at its worst 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. “For this coronavirus, we just don’t know.”
He added that asthma patients should still be able to wear a mask, as recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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.
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.