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Children with poorly controlled asthma at increased risk from COVID-19, study finds

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A new study from Scotland shows that children with poorly controlled asthma are up to 6 times more likely to be hospitalised with COVID-19 compared to other children.

The study, published in The Lancet, looked at COVID infection and hospital admission in 750,000 school-age children.

Among 63,463 children (8.4%) with a diagnosis of asthma, 4,339 (6.8%) had a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, and 67 (1.5%) of these were admitted to hospital with COVID-19. There were nine intensive care admissions, including five deaths, in children with asthma. Children who had been admitted to hospital for asthma in the previous 2 years were 6 times more likely to be hospitalised with COVID-19 compared to children with no asthma.

These findings are significant, and the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ) is highlighting the importance of delivering education and resources to children so that they can keep their asthma well controlled. This is of crucial importance as COVID spreads through New Zealand, and children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated.

"While most children with COVID-19 will experience mild symptoms, some are at increased risk of severe illness," says respiratory paediatrician Dr David McNamara. "Initially we were told that children with lung disease were not at increased risk compared to other children, but this study shows that children with poorly controlled asthma are vulnerable. This suggests that children in this group should be prioritised for vaccination. All children with asthma should be assessed regularly to ensure they have good control, appropriate treatment and receive education to ensure adherence."

"There is a high prevalence of childhood asthma in New Zealand, particularly among Māori tamariki and Pasifika children," adds ARFNZ Clinical Director Dr James Fingleton. "As we’ve been seeing already, Māori and Pacific communities are particularly vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19. This study shows that children with poorly controlled asthma are at increased risk of needing admission to hospital if they contract COVID-19, although the overall risk of needing hospital even in those with asthma was low. We need to ensure that we’re reaching these communities with vaccination for the recommended age groups and asthma resources. All children with asthma should have access to the tools to help them manage their asthma well and keep it under control."

One in seven children take medication for asthma in New Zealand, with large numbers of children (305.9 per 100,000 in 2019) being admitted to hospital. Of those, the highest number of people being admitted to hospital with asthma are Māori, Pacific peoples and people living in the most deprived areas. Māori are 3 times and Pacific peoples 3.2 times more likely to be hospitalised than Europeans or other New Zealanders, and people living in the most deprived areas are almost 3 times more likely to be hospitalised than those in the least deprived areas.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation provides asthma education in schools through its Sailor the Pufferfish/Heremana Te Kōpūtōtara live shows, and the recently launched Sailor Digital Classroom. It also provides asthma resources and toolkits for children in a variety of languages, including English, te reo Māori, Samoan and Tongan. These free resources can be found at shop.asthmaandrespiratory.org.nz

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