Can Kids with Asthma Participate in Sports?
Sports can be a great way for kids to learn teamwork, discover new skills, and stay healthy. As many Olympic athletes can attest, asthma shouldn’t prevent anyone from pursuing their dreams. Likewise, your child should not let their asthma diagnosis prevent them from pursuing physical activities that bring them joy.
Following some basic precautions can help your child participate in sports without asthma symptoms. If asthma symptoms are limiting your child, you should discuss this with his/her doctor as it could mean that his/her asthma is not well controlled. A typical exercise-induced asthma exacerbation happens in the minutes following a physical activity, often characterized by wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. If a child’s asthma is overall well controlled, then an exercise-induced asthma exacerbation is less likely to occur.
Here are three tips our asthma coach encourages you to consider to support your child with their athletic pursuits:
Help your child learn to identify their symptoms as they arise so that they can communicate effectively with their coach or P.E. teacher if you are not present. When you meet with your child’s doctor to develop rescue and controller treatment plans, we encourage you to mention your child’s involvement in sports. This will allow your doctor to develop an accurate asthma action plan for your child, as well as communicate to your child the different symptoms they should watch out for during practice or P.E. class. If your child is old enough to be aware of an oncoming exacerbation, they can also learn to quickly alert you or another adult present and take any necessary breaks or administer meds.
Have a rescue plan in place with your child and their coach or school instructor. If your child signs up for a new sport or is assigned a P.E. class, we suggest meeting with any adult supervisors that will be overseeing the activity to alert them of your child’s condition, and relay any necessary instructions about your child’s rescue medication plan in the event of an exacerbation.
Reduce the risk of an exercise-induced asthma exacerbation. If your child’s asthma is well controlled, they are less likely to have an exercise-induced asthma exacerbation. If you don’t have a good understanding of what asthma control is, please read this post. The key to maintaining control is tracking and staying aware of symptoms, sharing these symptoms with your doctor so any controller medication adjustments can be made. Make sure to then take the controller medication regularly (as prescribed), even if your child is not having symptoms. For some kids, administering a bronchodilator 10-15 minutes before physical activity begins is also important to prevent exacerbations, talk to your physician about that. It is also important that your child take time to warm up, especially when the weather is cold.