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Asthma is the leading chronic disease in children. There are currently about 5.1 million children with asthma under the age of 18. Black children are also three times as likely to have asthma compared to white children, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.Parents of kids with asthma and allergies should prepare a plan to keep them safe as schools reopen, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) says.

Along with guarding against COVID-19, it’s important to protect against cold, flu and other viruses that pose a risk to children with asthma. That includes wearing masks, washing hands and using hand sanitizer whenever possible.

“We don’t know what this fall and winter will bring, but if COVID-19 cases are again on the rise, it’s important to keep everyone safe from the flu virus and out of the hospital,” ACAAI President Dr. Luz Fonacier says.

Flu shots are crucial — along with the COVID-19 vaccine for kids who are old enough. (The Pfizer vaccine is approved for those 12 and older.)

While flu numbers were down last year because folks stayed home, Fonacier says a flu shot this year can keep kids from getting sick with something that can be prevented.

Asthma and classrooms

It’s also important for kids with asthma and allergies to avoid triggers. For example, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) given off by new carpeting can cause wheezing and sneezing.

Parents should consider: Is there new carpeting in school hallways? Are there open windows where pollen can drift into the classroom? Could a class pet be causing allergies? Is there mold in the bathrooms? It’s important for parents to discuss potential triggers with school officials to help control their child’s symptoms, Fonacier adds.

Work with an allergist to make sure your child’s medications are appropriate for their