As the coronavirus pandemic escalates, it’s more important than ever to stay in touch with your medical team. That’s especially important for parents of children with pulmonary hypertension (PH), says Nidhy Varghese, M.D., medical director of the pulmonary hypertension program at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. Dr. Varghese advises the nurse practitioner-led Pulmonary Hypertension Association support group at Texas Children’s Hospital and serves on the PH Care Centers Review Committee.

“You, your doctor and your medical team know your child best,” says Varghese, who recently discussed COVID-19 concerns with a Houston TV station.

The illness could be especially problematic for children who have breathing problems on a regular basis, such as those with PH, she says. It could intensify coughing, shortness of breath and trouble breathing. “We worry if they were to get sick, the results could be very problematic.”

Varghese has been fielding questions from and offering advice to families of children with respiratory conditions as the coronavirus spreads. Those families face worry and anxiety every day, and COVID-19 heightens that anxiety.

One of the common questions she hears is what parents can do to reduce their child’s risk. She offers similar recommendations to what physicians advise during cold and flu season, such as handwashing and social distancing. Here are some of her tips:

  • If you think your child is sick, call your medical team. They can assess your child’s symptoms, schedule a tele visit or determine whether you should go to the emergency room.
  • If the doctor thinks it’s safe enough for your child to stay home, make sure he or she gets a lot of rest and fluids.
  • Keep sick children away from other family members.
  • For children with chronic respiratory diseases, make sure they keep taking their medication, even if they’re sick, unless the doctor says otherwise.
  • Allow your child to play outside, in the backyard if you have one, if he or she isn’t sick. Make sure the child avoids others who are sick. Regular exercise is good for the lungs, but PH patients might be more fragile when it comes to exercise. Make sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations.
  • Stay on top of refills. Don’t let medicine supplies run out. Contact your pharmacy to ensure the medications are available.

See the video.

See related articles on the COVID-19 and Pulmonary Hypertension page.