Covid-19 Considerations: Children with Thalassemia Attending School In Person

August 18, 2020 – Many parents of children with thalassemia are concerned about whether their child should attend school in person if they live in a district in which in person classes is an option. There is no one simple answer to this question. Many factors must be considered, including:

  • whether the child lives in an area in which the covid-19 infection rate is high or is low,
  • whether there are appropriate precautions in place, and
  • whether individuals who live in the same household as the child are at high risk.

Among the precautions to consider is whether social distancing and/or use of masks will be practiced on buses, in classrooms, cafeterias, etc. Also, knowledge of how the school will handle contact tracing and what their rules are for quarantining/absenting from school due to exposure is helpful. If a child is regularly transfused, parents may want to check with their school to see if their child’s regular hospital visits impacts their ability to attend in person classes during the pandemic.

In general, children with thalassemia should not be at higher risk for severe infection from covid19 than other children their age.  However, sometimes individuals with thalassemia have complications, such as diabetes or heart failure, which place them in a higher risk category for covid-19. And any individuals with thalassemia who get sick with covid-19 (or with any virus, for that matter) may then experience a drop in hemoglobin levels that may require urgent transfusion. (This may be especially true for patients with hemoglobin H Constant Spring.)

It’s also important to remember that some children may have health issues unrelated to thalassemia which may impact a parent’s decision concerning in person learning for their child.Many schools will have virtual options for children. How well a child does with virtual learning varies significantly from one child to another, so parents may want to weigh the risks and benefits of virtual learning versus in person learning. It also can be helpful for parents to discuss options with each school to determine if their child might benefit from a combination of online and in person scheduling.

The CDC has an online toolkit which parents may find helpful in determining whether they will send their child to school or opt for a virtual experience. The toolkit can be accessed at:

CAF thanks Dr. Janet Kwiatkowski for her input in preparing this message.

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