Back to School: Managing Allergies and Asthma during COVID-19

Sandra Hong, MD, tells us why managing your child’s allergy and asthma symptoms is especially important as kids head back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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CLEVELAND – Whether your child is heading back to school, or learning remotely this fall – you’ll want to make sure allergies and asthma are under control so they can concentrate on their studies, not their sniffles.

Sandra Hong, MD, an allergist at Cleveland Clinic, said managing allergy and asthma symptoms is especially important this year because they often mimic those of COVID-19.

“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,” she said.

Dr. Hong said nasal steroids are a good way to control allergy symptoms like a stuffy nose, post nasal drip, and itchy eyes.

Another option is an antihistamine, which will help with sneezing, dripping and itching.

If your child’s allergies are really flared up, she said a combination of the two treatments works well.

When it comes to asthma, it’s always a good idea to make sure asthma symptoms are well controlled as we approach cold and flu season, to avoid respiratory complications.

If your child is attending school in person, she recommends providing the school with an ‘asthma action plan’ and emergency inhalers.

Parents should also be sure asthma control medicines are working properly.

“If you’re noticing symptoms more than two times a week of coughing, or wheezing, or shortness of breath, 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,” said Dr. Hong.

Dr. Hong said it’s safe for kids with asthma and allergies to wear a mask at school, and that having symptoms under control will make wearing a mask more tolerable.

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