Social distancing measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an unexpected outcome: some children with chronic lung diseases, including asthma, cystic fibrosis and bronchopulmonary dysplasia are feeling better, according to pediatric pulmonologist and American Lung Association volunteer medical spokesperson Christy Sadreameli, M.D. Staying home has meant that many children with chronic lung disease have been sheltered from triggers such as respiratory viruses, air pollution and exposure to allergens.
Despite this positive outcome, the American Lung Association urges parents and families to continue to be vigilant in the face of COVID-19. Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of children receiving routine vaccination is down, and fears of COVID-19 are causing some families to avoid pediatric check-ups. However, as children begin to return to activities such as summer camp, school and socializing with friends, it’s important for families to schedule regular check-ups and make sure children receive routine childhood vaccinations. In the fall, it will be important for children to get their flu shot.
“I want parents to know that even if their child with chronic lung disease is feeling better due to social distancing, we are in an artificial situation,” said Sadreameli. “For example, I’ve had parents who stopped their kids’ asthma medication and let me know about it later, which may or may not have been appropriate. I recommend maintaining prescribed medications and keeping planned medical appointments using telehealth. Letting our guards down could backfire in the future, such as when kids go back to school in the fall, if parents interpret a lack of exacerbations due to social distancing as their children getting better permanently.”
Some parents are cautious about taking their children to the pediatrician because they fear contracting COVID-19, or that their children might develop a serious but rare complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C. But healthcare providers are implementing measures to keep children safe. Additionally, vaccinations will mitigate the risk of other outbreaks once social distancing measures are relaxed.
“We essentially helped shut down flu season in the spring due to strict social distancing,” said Sadreameli. “However, being social is healthy and kids and their families need to be prepared to come back to school. In order to return safely, parents should make sure their children have had routine vaccinations and their flu shot, and for children with lung disease, the proper preventative medications and treatments as recommended by their doctor.”
As scientists worldwide race to find a vaccine for COVID-19, a key lesson of the pandemic is that immunizations are essential in keeping our children and communities safe. “Even though telehealth is a wonderful innovation, there are still elements of healthcare that can’t be replaced by a computer screen,” said Sadreameli.
For more information on lung health, immunizations and COVID-19, visit Lung.org. Journalists seeking to schedule an interview with Dr. Sadreameli or other lung health experts may contact Stephanie Goldina at [email protected] or 312-801-7629.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.