Common Questions about COVID-19 and Pediatric Brain Tumor Patients
As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, it is normal to have questions – especially if your child or a child you know has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
The following information from public health experts is intended to answer questions you may have and provide you with steps you can take to protect yourself and children with brain tumors.
We also encourage you to reach out directly to your healthcare team with any questions or concerns specific to your child’s health and to refer to the CDC for the most up-to-date information and more answers to general COVID-19 questions.
Are children with brain tumors at increased risk for COVID-19 infection?
“The risk of severe illness in children from COVID-19 infection is generally lower,” according to St. Jude’s Children Research Center. However, “families with children who have weakened immune systems due to an illness or medical condition should take extra care to prevent exposure to the virus. If symptoms develop, contact your doctor right away.”
St. Jude’s provides the following additional details:
Cancer and cancer treatments can weaken the immune system. This means that a child with cancer is often at higher risk for infection and illness. In general, cancer can lower immunity and make it harder to fight infection in different ways:
- The cancer or cancer treatment can lower the number of immune cells that attack germs.
- Cancer treatments, including radiation and certain medicines, may weaken the skin or membranes lining the mouth and digestive tract. This can allow some kinds of germs to enter the body more easily. We don’t yet know if this affects risk in COVID-19.
We don’t know for sure if there is increased risk of severe illness in COVID-19 for pediatric cancer patients with weakened immune systems. But it’s possible that more severe illness could occur, so it is recommended to take precautions and watch carefully at this time.
What can I do if my child is at an increased risk for COVID-19 infection?
The CDC has issued guidelines for people who are at higher risk -- including avoiding large gatherings and staying home as much as possible. The CDC recommends getting ready for COVID-19 now and to protect yourself by doing the following:
- Stay at home as much as possible.
- Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods of time.
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact, and wash your hands often.
- Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.
- Speak to your healthcare team directly with specific questions about your child’s risk factors and continue to check the CDC website for complete guidelines and the most up-to-date information.
What should I do if I think my child may have the COVID-19 coronavirus?
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recommends you should contact your healthcare provider if your child or a member of your family has been exposed to COVID-19 and develops a fever and cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms of a respiratory illness. This is particularly important if either of the following two conditions apply:
- Your family has been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19.
- Your family lives in or has recently traveled to an area known to have an outbreak of the disease.
Your healthcare provider will work with state health departments and local health authorities to determine if you or your child should be tested.
If your child has been receiving cancer treatment that suppresses the immune system and they develop a fever and respiratory symptoms, call their oncologist as you usually would during treatment when they develop a fever.
Before going into a hospital or healthcare provider’s officer, be sure to contact and follow your medical team’s guidance on whether it’s safer to come in or stay home.
The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation is here for your family throughout and after COVID-19. Find more information and resources in our COVID-19 Resource Center for Families of Children with Brain Tumors.