Is my child at higher risk for getting sick from COVID-19 if she is diagnosed with asthma?

There is still a lot we don’t know about COVID-19. People with chronic health conditions appear to have a higher risk of more severe illness if they get COVID-19. Having your child’s asthma under control is especially important now. We want to prevent children from needing emergency department care when possible. But, if your child is having an asthma attack, don’t delay seeking immediate medical care.

How do I know if my child’s asthma is well-controlled?

Having uncontrolled asthma is an important risk factor for an asthma attack. Symptoms of poorly controlled asthma may be:

  • Daytime coughing and/or wheezing for more than 2 days a week
  • Nighttime waking due to coughing or wheezing
  • Rescue inhaler needed more than 2 times a week
  • Limitation of physical activity due to asthma symptoms

With COVID-19, what is the best form of asthma medication to give — an inhaler or nebulizer treatment?

Using a nebulizer, which turns liquid medicine into a mist, for albuterol treatments, may increase the amount of virus in the air if the person has COVID-19. This could spread the virus to others more easily, since the virus may stay in air droplets for up to several hours. Inhalers are an appropriate alternative, especially for moderate asthma managed at home. Children should be trained to use inhalers always with a spacer. Used properly, either method is effective. It’s important for people with asthma to talk with their health care providers about what delivery method is best for them.

How can I help prevent my child from having an asthma attack during the pandemic?

Every child with asthma should have a written asthma action plan from their pediatrician. Help your child follow their plan and take their controller medications if prescribed. Know when to step up care and when to call your pediatrician according to your written asthma action plan. During your well check-up, your doctor will discuss this plan and, depending on your child’s age, may request a pulmonary function test.

Especially during these stressful times, preparation beats panic.

Dr. Irene Papaconstadopoulos, MD is a board-certified pediatrician on Maui at