Parents, guardians and carers of children with asthma are encouraged by the National Asthma Council Australia and the Royal Ausralian College of General Practitioners to have them vaccinated against COVID-19 in the lead-up to school.
A recent study of 2020 data on COVID in children from tertiary hospitals across the country found that while most children had mild disease, respiratory conditions were the number one comorbidity amongst positive children.
Asthma was the leading diagnosis in the study.
Paediatric respiratory physician and member of the National Asthma Council Australia Guidelines Committee Dr Louisa Owens said there were important steps adults should take to help children in the lead-up to school.
"If parents are unsure about getting their child with asthma vaccinated, then we encourage them to make an appointment with their GP in January and have a discussion before their child starts the 2022 school year," she said.
"Everyone is a little bit anxious going back to school this year, and there are a few things that parents with children with asthma can do to minimise the risks to their children.
"We're learning more and more about COVID in children, and while the vast majority of children have a mild illness, asthma does seem to be a risk factor for kids who become unwell with COVID, so it does seem like a risk factor for ending up in ICU.
"[They're] still small numbers, but it's still a risk factor.
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"So just having asthma on its own isn't really a risk factor for having more severe COVID...
"...It's definitely those who have either severe asthma - so they're needing a lot of medications to keep their asthma under control, or if their asthma isn't under control.
"They're the main ones that we worry about."
Dr Owens said it was important for adults to take other steps before children return to the classroom.
"It's also really important to check with their GP and get their asthma under control before going back to school..." she said.
"...Making sure their child is having their preventers regularly, having their GP check for technique because there's different techniques for all of the different devices, just having that looked at again to make sure the child taking the medication is actually getting it down into their lungs.
"Making sure they've got an Asthma Action Plan because if they do develop asthma symptoms in school, or in before and after school care, or daycare, whoever's looking after them knows what to do and how to manage their symptoms."
Dr Owens said this was important because there was a general spike in asthmatic children being admitted to hospital in February every year.
She said factors such as dust in a classroom, the increase in germs being shared at school and a change in a school holiday routine potentially influenced this.
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