You might remember a time when kids who had asthma were
discouraged from playing sports and told to take it easy.
That's no longer the case. Being active, working out, and
playing sports does more than help a child with asthma stay fit,
, and have fun - it can actually strengthen a child's breathing
muscles and help the lungs work better.
For these reasons, your child's doctor may recommend
exercise as part of the asthma treatment plan. If you have your
doubts about whether sports and asthma mix, consider all the
professional and Olympic athletes who have asthma. In 1996, nearly
17% of U.S. Olympic athletes had asthma and 30% of them won
There are two important messages about sports participation that
you can send to your child with asthma:
- Your child's asthma must be under control in order for
him or her to play sports properly.
- When your child's asthma is well controlled, he or she
can - and should - be active and play sports just like anyone
Of course, some sports are less likely to pose problems than
others for people with asthma. Swimming, leisurely biking, and
walking are less likely to trigger asthma
, as are sports that require short bursts of activity like
baseball, football, gymnastics, and shorter track and field
Endurance sports, like long-distance running and cycling, and
sports like soccer and basketball, which require extended energy
output, may be more challenging. This is especially true for
cold-weather sports like cross-country skiing or ice hockey. But
that doesn't mean your child can't participate in these
sports if he or she truly enjoys them. In fact, many athletes with
asthma have found that, with proper training and medication, they
can participate in any sport they choose.
Staying in the Game
To keep asthma under control, it's important that your child
take his or her medicine as prescribed. Skipping
can make symptoms worse, and forgetting to take a prescribed
medication before exercise can lead to severe flare-ups and even
emergency department visits. Your child should carry
at all times, even during workouts, in case of a flare-up.
It's also a good idea to keep
in mind. Depending on his or her triggers, you child may want
- Skip outdoor workouts when pollen or mold counts are
- Wear a scarf or ski mask when training outside during the
- Make sure he or she always has time for a careful warm up and
These recommendations should be included in the
asthma action plan
you create together with your child's doctor.
You should also make sure that your child's coach knows
about your child's asthma and his or her asthma action plan.
For a young child, you might want to provide the coach with a copy.
An older child should keep a copy with him or her, as well as any
medication that could be needed to treat a flare-up.
Most importantly, your child and your child's coach need to
understand when it's time for your child to take a break from a
practice or game so that flare-ups can be managed before they
Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: June 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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