COVID-19 and Children with Asthma

Children are not at increased risk for getting COVID-19, and most children have a mild illness if they are infected. Moreover, studies of severe COVID infections has not shown that people with asthma are in the higher risk groups.  However, there is still a lot we do not know about COVID-19.  It remains unclear whether children with underlying asthma are at increased risk for more severe illness if they do become infected with COVID-19.  While the risk is clearer for children with other medical conditions, at this time the CDC indicates that children with moderate to severe asthma might be at higher risk for more serious infection.  It is important to realize that people with no symptoms, including children, can still spread COVID-19 to others.  This is why it is important to continue to practice behaviors which reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help prevent infection.

Prevention of COVID-19

There are 5 important things you and your child can do to help prevent infection with COVID:

  • Wear a face mask in public.
  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Observe social distancing
  • Take your asthma medicines as prescribed
  • Follow your Asthma Action Plan

Call your asthma doctor if your child develops respiratory symptoms.

Face Masks and Children with Asthma

  • Wearing face masks has been shown to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  Face masks are recommended for children older than 2, even those with asthma.
  • There are benefits to wearing a face mask for children with asthma.
    • First, children with asthma are more likely to have symptoms that cause the production of droplets and may spread an infection. Wearing a face covering can help prevent this. 
    • Face coverings may reduce exposure to pollens and pollutants that make their symptoms worse.
    • Face coverings can also help reduce the risk of catching other viruses that can trigger asthma.
  • There are several choices for face coverings, and a family should choose whichever is most comfortable for the child.  It does not have to be a paper mask as is worn in the hospital.  A cloth face mask is perfectly appropriate for a school setting.  It is safe for children with asthma to wear masks for extended periods of time, such as during the school day.

Common Concerns about Wearing Face Masks

  • Some people have been concerned about potentially harmful side-effects from wearing masks for long periods of time: retaining carbon dioxide or inability to get enough oxygen. But it's highly unlikely you'll suffer either of these wearing a cloth or gauze face mask. When you breathe out, the carbon dioxide will go through and around the mask and oxygen comes in.  Surgeons wear face coverings all day without harm.
  • Some have asked asks why social distancing is necessary if masks work. The easy answer is that neither method gives the population full protection but having both can help limit the spread of the virus.
  • Another concern that has been raised is whether wearing a mask trigger infections already in the body or weakens your immune system.  There is no evidence to support either of these claims.
  • Many parents are concerned that it will be harder for their child to breathe through a mask.  Breathing through a face covering doesn’t require any more effort than it does to use asthma inhalers.

Finding the Correct Fit for Face Masks

  • Read Tips to Help Kids Wear Face Masks, from the Cincinnati Children's blog.
  • It may take a few tries to find the right mask to fit your kids. Many of the make-at-home patterns call for 6×12 inches of fabric for adults and 5×10 inches for children. Even the 5×10 may be too large for younger kids. Indeed, the same mask for the same-aged child can fit differently!
  • Here are some guidelines for proper fit and wear. The mask should:
    • Cover both the nose and mouth
    • Be snug (so that there are no gaps) but comfortable
    • Extend from ear to ear
    • Be held by the strings when putting on and taking off
    • Be washed daily, if at all possible (having more than one may help)
    • Not be worn when eating or drinking
    • Not be touched when on their faces
  • Kids should wash their hands before putting the mask on, as well as after they take it off. Additionally, if they touch it while wearing it, they should wash their hands then, too.