MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Although patients with asthma may not be at a higher risk of acquiring COVID-19, WVU Medicine physicians are stressing the importance of mask wearing for both children and adults.
A release from WVU Medicine stated that the WVU Medicine Children’s Pulmonary Medicine Clinic works to provide the best possible medical care, education and awareness regarding asthma and other breathing disorders. The release stated that recently, it has added to task of educating patients and their importance of mask wearing in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
“We are all susceptible to COVID-19 infection at similar rates,” Saif Al Qatarneh, M.D., WVU Medicine Children’s pediatric pulmonologist, said. “However, we’re finding that children are usually less symptomatic and don’t have severe infections at the same rate as adults. With the limited data we have so far, we are learning that children with asthma who are exposed to the virus are not necessarily developing symptoms like in other groups of patients. This means that even though they are as likely to acquire the virus, they could be asymptomatic and spread the disease to others without knowing.”
The release stated that recent research suggests that children with asthma don’t develop severe symptoms when exposed to COVID-19 because of low ACE-2 receptor expression. WVU Medicine officials said ACE-2 receptors are proteins at the surface of the cells in the respiratory system that the virus uses to as an entry point.
“We should be aware that we don’t have enough data about this disease,” Dr. Al Qatarneh said. “This is why it is so important that everyone wear masks when they are in public. Masks also help protect asthma patients from other respiratory viruses.”
Al Qatarneh said patients with controlled asthma symptoms should have no medical issues wearing masks. Other patients may discuss with their doctors about alternative options to prevent infection.
“Some may find it hard to wear a mask because it can be uncomfortable or cause anxiety,” Al Qatarneh said. “This is different from having a medical reason to not wear one. In general, from a respiratory standpoint, as long as the patient does not have active respiratory symptoms or concerns for uncontrolled asthma, wearing a mask is medically advised.”
“From what I’ve seen in the clinic, it seems kids are quicker in adapting wearing masks. They enjoy wearing it as a fashion accessory, especially when they add some fun themes or characters, like superheroes, princesses, or dinosaurs.”