Returning to School with Asthma - During COVID-19

Returning to School with Asthma - During COVID-19

As the summer winds down and students prepare to return to school, many young asthma patients and their parents are growing concerned about staying healthy and controlling their symptoms in the classroom - especially in the times of COVID-19.

The prevalence of asthma attacks, exacerbations and the irritant triggers which cause them have been the subject of studies by asthma researchers in the past [1], [2]. The results of these studies revealed that school environments have been found to be uniquely high in the average amount of airborne particles which can trigger the symptoms or development of conditions [1]. School environments have been shown to report high levels of pet allergens, fungal mold particles, and generally poor indoor air quality [1]. Due to the number of potential irritants children encounter in the classroom, it can be difficult to pinpoint which factor(s) contributes to a given exacerbation. Parents and educators have gradually become aware of the effects classroom exposure to asthma irritants can have on a child's health.

Nevertheless, after the summer season in which it's often much easier to monitor your child's asthma from home, it can be helpful to review some steps you can take to ensure their asthma is under control when returning to the classroom.

It's always important to remember that asthma symptoms can be largely managed. Before the start of the school year, consider these recommendations:

  • Create and review an emergency asthma action plan with your child
  • Have a rescue inhaler (or multiple) on hand in case of emergency
  • Make sure their teachers are aware of their asthma

Returning to School During COVID-19 & What you Should Know

In light of many schools reopening in the uncertain time of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and students may be concerned about the potential risks associated with returning to the classroom. In light of these concerns, Montreal Children’s Hospital and The Canadian Thoracic Society have each released resources to better inform those with questions [3], [4].

Firstly, it is important to know that the majority of children (including those with asthma) can safely go back to school - provided adequate safety measures are taken. It’s important for returning students to:

  • Wash their hands regularly with soap for at least 20 seconds
  • Comply with recommended facemask rules
  • Follow local and national public health advisories with regards to physical distancing

As of the time of the release of these resources, asthma patients have not been found to be any more at risk of contracting the virus as those without. Furthermore, low case rates among students below the age of 18 were also cause for optimism.

It's been cautioned by healthcare coalitions that the contraction COVID-19 may trigger asthma exacerbations, though no direct attempt has yet been made to evaluate the risk of COVID caused asthma attacks. To be safe, it’s recommended that patients keep their rescue inhalers on hand in times of crisis parents and students review their emergency action plans [4]. For more information, check out the resources below, and don't hesitate to contact your doctor if you're unsure if it's safe for your child to return to the classroom.


Returning to school or day care for the child with respiratory disease

Addressing Therapeutic Questions To Help Canadian Physicians Optimize Asthma Management For Their Patients During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Sources

[1] Esty, B., & Phipatanakul,W. (2018). School exposure and asthma. Annals of allergy, asthma &immunology: official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma,& Immunology, 120(5), 482–487. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anai.2018.01.028

 

[2] Chew, G.L., Correa, J.C. andPerzanowski, M.S. (2005), Mouse and cockroach allergens in the dust and air innortheastern United States inner‐city public high schools. Indoor Air, 15:228-234. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0668.2005.00363.x

 

[3]https://www.thechildren.com/sites/default/files/return_to_school_for_children_with_respiratory_disease_final_eng_1.pdf

 

[4]https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJM199705083361904?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub++0pubmed

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