According to the Australian Government Department of Health, the risk to children and babies of contracting COVID-19 and the role children play in transmitting COVID-19 is low.
The rate of confirmed Coronavirus cases among children compared to the broader population has so far been low, indicating that the return to the school environment at this point in the evolution of the pandemic in Australia is likely to be a safe one.
But we know it’s a worrying time, and that you know your child, your family, and your school community best. There are things you can do to provide a little security and control, starting with good asthma control.
- IMPORTANTLY – If a viral illness is a trigger for your child’s asthma, take similar precautions you would take at the start of the colds and flu season but add some of the things we’ve all adapted during COVID-19:
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the last 6 weeks of lockdown, it’s how effective these distancing and hygiene measures can be. Let’s continue it. Regular handwashing, doing our best to maintain physical distance, keeping kids home when sick with any symptoms, and avoiding touching anything without clean hands are all ways we can continue to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus within our communities.
We get that it’s going to be particularly stressful for people who rely on public transport and for those who have people at home who are vulnerable. We can’t offer solutions that will guarantee safety during this time but there are things you can do to that may reduce your risk:
- Have your child carry hand sanitiser, encourage them to use it frequently after touching surfaces, and before coming into contact with anyone i.e. arriving at school, getting on the train, arriving home.
- The most likely route of transmission around return to school will be between parents. Ensure drop off is quick and that you maintain physical distancing with other parents
- In regards to face masks, the Federal Government does not recommend the use of masks for routine activities. However, some people are being advised, and have indicated they feel more comfortable, to wear masks when out in public, during transit, or when in the other company. If you do choose to wear a mask:
- Face masks need to be used correctly and safely or you could increase risk, for example by regularly touching and adjusting the mask around the face, not throwing out a disposable mask after use, or not separating and washing a breathable and reusable mask appropriately
- See the WHO video on how to use masks correctly: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks
When it comes to managing asthma:
Discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor:
- It might be worth requesting a long appointment time so you can discuss all the things that are important to you.
- Discuss your child’s triggers, the patterns of their illness (when, how often, and how severely they experience their symptoms) and their current level of asthma control.
- Discuss the possibility of starting preventer asthma medication, if your child is not on one – their doctor will ask how often and how severe your child’s asthma symptoms are to determine if preventer medication is warranted
- Ask for a detailed written Asthma Action Plan to be developed and make sure you know how to use it. Ensure everyone who cares for your child is also familiar with the plan and has a copy. Your child’s school will demand it
- Have your or your child’s inhaler technique checked by your health professional to ensure they are receiving the right dose of medication to their lungs. Call 1800 ASTHMA to review the technique with one of our asthma educators
- If your child is using a puffer device, ensure you have a spacer to maximise the benefits of the asthma medications and reduce potential side effects
- Discuss getting the flu vaccination for your whole family this year
- Keep your child at home and take them to the doctor if they have any symptoms
Discuss your child’s health with your child’s school
Your child’s school will require an up to date written asthma action plan as well as any medicines your child needs in general or in case of symptoms.
Have a discussion with your child’s teacher or principal regarding your child’s asthma or allergies; what symptoms they usually exhibit, especially if it is a cough or with allergies a sniffle or sneezing and any other concerns about their health you are concerned about.
The Australian Department of Health articulate the role of schools as follows:
- Facilitate physical distancing
- Reduce risks to vulnerable populations in schools
- Enable hygiene
- Take responsibility for environmental cleaning
- Address the psychological wellbeing of students and staff
- “Spread the word, not the disease”
For further information, for a service to share your concerns, to double-check your advice or ideas, there is a range of telehealth services available including:
- 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) a free service from Asthma Australia for people with asthma and their carers where you can speak to an Asthma Educator about your asthma questions and concerns.
- Coronavirus Health Information Line (1800 020 080) – call this line if you are seeking information on Coronavirus (COVID-19). The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Health Direct 24 hours a day 7 days a week 1800 022 222 for free health advice.
- Your local GP/New telehealth primary healthcare service – The Australian Government has invested additional funding to allow doctors, nurses, midwives, and mental health professionals to deliver services via telehealth to allow people to access essential health services in their home while they undergo self-isolation or quarantine, and reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for vulnerable people in the community. This includes people with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised; and – parents with new babies and people who are pregnant.
It’s easy for us to tell you to maintain good personal hygiene and other protective measures, but how can we relay that to our kids? Good hand and respiratory hygiene practices for school and elsewhere, like frequent handwashing, covering a cough or sneeze with a flexed elbow or tissue, then throwing away the tissue into a closed bin, and not touching their eyes, mouths or noses if they haven’t properly washed their hands are described here:
We wish you courage and good health as you return to community life and hope the above information is helpful as you face the challenge. Control the things you can control, improve your family’s asthma control, and brush up on your Asthma First Aid.
Other resources you may find helpful:
- Symptoms of asthma in children
- Diagnosing asthma in children
- Treating asthma in children
- Asthma flare-ups/attacks in children
- How to use a spacer with a face mask
- How to use a metered device inhaler (MDI) and spacer
- Inhaler devices techniques
- Health Direct Australia
- Australian Government Department of Health resources