Allowing Your Child to Play Sports with Asthma

girl_soccerballYour 7-year-old son loves baseball and can’t wait to join the local Little League team. Your daughter is a big soccer fan and all her fourth-grade friends play soccer after school, so she wants to play soccer also. Both kids have asthma. What to do?

Just because your children have asthma does not mean they can’t participate in any sports or physical activities, says Dr. Stanley Galant, an asthma specialist and medical director of CHOC Children’s Breathmobile.

“I encourage every child to exercise. If you control the asthma you have less of a chance of a problem,” he says. “It’s very important for asthmatic kids to stay competitive. It’s important for the families and their providers to create a situation that allows them to participate.”

“First of all, exercise is very important for lung development. It’s important to take a deep breath, and exercise makes you take a deep breath. On the other hand, asthma is a known trigger for having a shortness of breath, or coughing or wheezing. The symptoms frequently occur after you stop exercising.”

Young athletes participating in sports can take some steps to minimize or avoid asthma trouble, according to Dr. Galant. He said children should warm up first with some “energy bursts” like sprints and other short exercises. They could also use their albuterol inhaler about 15 minutes before exercising to help prevent an attack caused by exercise if necessary.

If it’s a cold day, athletes with asthma should wear a mask to prevent the cold, dry air from getting into their lungs, Dr. Galant advised. “Swimming is the best exercise for asthmatic kids. Running is the hardest, particular in dry cold air,” he notes.

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