If you or your child has asthma, you may be concerned about coronavirus and how to avoid getting severely sick. People with asthma may be at higher risk of getting very sick from coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here’s what the experts are saying and how you can take steps to keep yourself and your family safe.
What Are the Risks for People With Asthma?
People with moderate to severe asthma could be at greater risk for more severe illness from coronavirus, says the CDC. However, so far, the specific coronavirus responsible for this pandemic does not seem to cause asthma complications, although other coronaviruses do. Much is still unknown about this new virus, and the situation evolves each day.
What Are the Risks for Children With Asthma?
The symptoms of coronavirus are very similar in children and adults, but generally, children with coronavirus have mild symptoms, says the CDC. Symptoms in children may be similar to a cold, with a fever, runny nose and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported.
It’s not yet known whether children with asthma or other underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for severe illness. If your child with asthma develops a fever and cough, contact their pediatrician or set up a telemedicine appointment with them. You can also read more about what to know about children and coronavirus.
Precautions and Actions to Take
If you or your child is at a higher risk of getting very sick from coronavirus due to asthma, there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk of contracting the virus. Here’s what the CDC recommends:
- Avoid any nonessential travel, especially on cruise ships
- During a coronavirus outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible
- Instead of going to the grocery store, consider grocery delivery or do curbside pickup, if necessary
- If you must go out, avoid crowds, limit close contact and wash your hands often
- Keep 6 feet of distance between you and other people
- For children, the CDC recommends laundering washable plush toys according to the manufacturer’s instructions
The CDC also advises everyone, but particularly those at high risk, to take the following everyday preventive actions.
Wash Your Hands Often
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, being in a public place or touching a public surface. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Avoid Touching High-Touch Surfaces in Public
Avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places to the extent possible. Use your elbow or cover your hand with a tissue or sleeve if you must touch something. These high-touch surfaces include elevator buttons, door handles and handrails.
Don’t Touch Your Face
As a good rule of thumb always, avoid touching your face, nose, eyes and hair. This is how germs on your hands can infect you.
Clean and Disinfect Your Home
Clean and disinfect your home frequently, particularly high-touch surfaces like tables, doorknobs, light switches, desks, toilets, faucets, keyboards, cell phones and sinks.
If you are sick and heading to the emergency department or doctor’s office, wear a mask if possible. The CDC also recommends wearing a face mask in public even if you are not sick. If that's not possible, stay at least 6 feet away from others and follow social distancing guidelines.
Coping With Stress and Anxiety
As coronavirus spreads and communities take action to stop the spread, it’s normal to feel stressed or worried. Strong emotions can trigger an asthma attack, however, so make sure to take any steps you can to cope with stress and anxiety.
For children, the same applies. Watch for signs of stress like excessive worry or sadness, difficulty with concentration and attention, and unhealthy eating or sleeping habits. You can read how to help kids cope with stress, too.
Have a Plan in Case You Get Sick
If you are in a high-risk group, make sure you have the contact information of your doctor, friends, family and neighbors whose help you may need if you become sick. Stay in touch with these people and determine if any of them can assist you if needed.
Have Necessary Supplies on Hand
If you’re at high risk of complications from coronavirus, it’s important to have the things you need on hand so that you can reduce or eliminate the need to go out. If you do get sick, you’ll need to self-isolate, so knowing that you have supplies for two to four weeks will give you peace of mind.
Be sure to have a supply of prescription medications. Contact your health care provider to see if you can obtain an extra supply of medications. Use mail-order if you can.
You’ll also want to gather over-the-counter medicines and supplies. Stock up on tissues, acetaminophen and other fever-reducing medicines, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, hand soap and disposable gloves.
Stock your pantry with non-perishable groceries and other household items. Make sure you have several weeks’ worth of groceries and any other household supplies on hand. That way, if you get sick, you don’t have to leave the house to shop.
Keep Following Your Asthma Action Plan
It’s important to continue to take your asthma medication as prescribed during this time and to follow your asthma action plan. Make sure you know how to use your inhaler and how to avoid your asthma triggers.
There have been some reports that steroids are contraindicated in coronavirus. If you live with asthma, you may be wondering what they should do if your controller medication is an inhaled or oral steroid. Physicians recommend that you continue to take all medications, including steroids, as prescribed.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the best thing that a person with asthma can do is to keep their asthma under control. Particularly during spring allergy season, stopping a controller medication could increase the risk of developing an asthma exacerbation. An exacerbation may require a trip to the emergency department or urgent care, where you are at a higher risk of being exposed to someone with coronavirus. So, staying on your medications is extra important at this time.
If pollen triggers your asthma, be sure to follow both your allergy treatment plan and your asthma action plan to keep your allergies and asthma under control.
What Should You Do If You Develop Symptoms?
Coronavirus symptoms are typically fever, cough and shortness of breath. Call your doctor or schedule a telehealth visit (this is an online doctor visit) with them if you think you are developing symptoms. You can see your provider through a video visit on the AdventHealth app, too.
Emergency Warning Signs
If you have any emergency warning signs for coronavirus, get medical attention immediately. The emergency warning signs in adults are:
- Bluish lips and/or face
- Confusion or inability to rouse
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Is It Just Allergies?
Symptoms of seasonal allergies can be similar to coronavirus. You may wonder if you’re experiencing seasonal allergies or getting sick with coronavirus or another respiratory illness.
However, unlike seasonal allergies, coronavirus does not cause sneezing and only rarely causes a runny or stuffy nose. A fever is a sign of coronavirus and not seasonal allergies. But you can also have coronavirus with no fever.
If you have a fever and a cough, or if you’re not sure if your symptoms are related to allergies or coronavirus, call your doctor or schedule a virtual visit through the AdventHealth app.
We’re Here For You
At AdventHealth, we’re here to support you through this pandemic. Learn more about coronavirus and the ways you can keep yourself and your family safe and healthy on our Coronavirus Resource Hub.