With school getting underway across the country, it’s a reminder that fall will be here soon and no matter where your child is studying — in school or virtually at home — that means fall allergies are almost here, too.
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And this year, helping your child manage their asthma and allergies takes on extra importance as allergist Sandra Hong, MD, points out that symptoms for those conditions have overlap with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Says Dr. Hong, “Someone who has a coronavirus infection really can present with a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, fatigue and sometimes they have a loss of taste and smell, but very frequently people with allergies, and severe allergies, and asthma can have very similar symptoms.”
We talked to Dr. Hong about both asthma and allergies, how to help kids deal with them and what to keep an eye out for as the seasons change in the middle of a pandemic.
Even without the concern over the coronavirus, Dr. Hong says it’s important to stay on top of both your child’s asthma symptoms and asthma control medications at this time of year as the cold or flu can cause respiratory complications.
Dr. Hong says, “If you’re noticing symptoms more than two times a week of coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or you’re needing to use your rescue inhaler frequently, the answer is that you need to have a better controller medication to keep you from feeling those symptoms.”
And if your child is attending school in person, Dr. Hong recommends checking with the school to make sure they have an “asthma action plan” to assist children who suffer an attack, including emergency inhalers.
Allergies can be a frustrating experience for kids. Besides breathing difficulties that can be brought about by a stuffy nose, allergy flare-ups can make it difficult for children to concentrate in class, especially in classrooms where they may be exposed to environmental allergens like pollen and mold.
For issues like that stuffy nose, itchy eyes and post-nasal drip, Dr. Hong says nasal steroids are good for controlling those symptoms. She also recommends an antihistamine for helping with itching, dripping and sneezing.
Finally, there’s the issue of masks. While the research has shown that masks are very effective at preventing the spread of coronavirus, it’s understandable some parents might be concerned that they could cause issues for children with respiratory issues.
But Dr. Hong assures us that, at school and elsewhere, it’s safe for children with asthma and allergies to wear masks. And by staying on top of medication and symptoms, she says, you can ensure that wearing a mask, especially for long periods of time, is tolerable for your children.