Ask a Pediatrician: Is It a Good Idea for My Child With Asthma to Go Back to School or Day Care During COVID-19?

You ask, we answer. In each edition of “Ask a Pediatrician,” Connecticut Children’s pediatric experts respond to a question from our social media community. To submit your own question for consideration, email socialmedia@connecticutchildrens.org.

This week critical care pediatrician and asthma researcher Christopher Carroll, MD, MS, answers a question on a lot of parents’ minds.

Q: Is it a good idea for my child with asthma to go back to school or day care during COVID-19?

Chris Carroll, MDDr. Carroll: Whether or not your child has an existing health condition like asthma, this is a decision every parent is struggling with right now. Personally, I have two kids who are going back to school and one who is staying home (for now).

There are risks to going back to school or day care, and risks to staying home. There are also benefits to going back, and to staying home. How you weight each of these will determine your answer about whether your child should return to school or day care.  

For a closer look at all of the risks and benefits, read Is It Safe to Send Your Child Back to School During COVID-19? Advice From Connecticut Children’s Physician-in-Chief. As for the specific question of asthma:

Asthma doesn’t seem to be a major risk when it comes to kids and COVID-19.

From what we can tell, having asthma does not put your child at greater risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Nationwide, we have not seen an increase in children with asthma admitted to the hospital with asthma exacerbations during COVID-19. Nor have we seen an increase in Connecticut. Instead, we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of children typically admitted with asthma in the spring of 2020.

The reason is unknown, but asthma experts think this may be due to children with asthma being exposed to fewer viruses from school during school closures. We cannot predict how a widespread return to school will affect children with asthma in the face of COVID-19. The good news is that children have been relatively spared the direct impact of severe COVID-19 infections, and nationwide there have been relatively few children admitted with severe disease. In Connecticut, where there are more than 750,000 children, there have been fewer than 20 cases of children admitted to a Pediatric ICU with COVID-19. This suggests that the COVID-19 risk to children with asthma is not as severe as we worried in the beginning of the pandemic.

In other words: Unlike other underlying health conditions – like immunosuppression, diabetes or chronic lung disease – asthma doesn’t seem to be a reason to keep your child home.

The American Academy of Asthma Allergy and Immunology, one of the largest asthma professional organizations in the U.S., suggests that individuals with asthma continue to do what they have been doing all along: Keep taking their controller medication and inform their healthcare provider of any symptoms that may develop. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers similar advice for children. Both organizations stress the importance of handwashing and mask-wearing.

> Want more articles like this from pediatric experts you trust? Sign up for our newsletter

This is ultimately a family decision.

All of this means that, unfortunately, I can’t just give a “yes” or “no” answer to the question of whether to send a child – with or without asthma – back to school or day care. This is an individual family decision for each individual child.

We each need to assess the risks and benefits for our family and each of our children individually – while keeping in mind that “safe” is also relative and risks cannot be completely eliminated, no matter how careful everyone is.

You know your child best. How have they been doing with this isolation? How will another year or half-year at home affect them and their development? You also know your child’s school best. What is their plan for safe return and for distance education? How will your child do in the school or home environment? For help thinking through these risks and benefits, read A Checklist to Help Parents Decide: Send Kids Back to School or Keep Them Home During COVID-19?

Like my family, you may come to different decisions based on each individual child.

Good luck navigating this challenging environment, and please reach out to the experts at Connecticut Children’s any time for more advice!

Have a question for our pediatricians? Let us know at socialmedia@connecticutchildrens.org.

> For more helpful resources, visit our Back to School Kit

Related links

 

Share This Post

Newsletter Sign-up
Want our latest Blog posts sent directly to your inbox once a month? Sign-up below.
* indicates required
Back to Top
Searching Animation
Searching