by Amy Burack, RN, MA, AE-C
Community Asthma Programs Manager
Children’s Hospital Boston
Wheeze! Cough! If your child has asthma, you know these sounds all too well. You may also worry about your child struggling with asthma during physical activity. As a parent, it is important to keep your child’s asthma under good control, but it is also important to encourage him to exercise. Children with asthma can do the same things children without asthma can do!
Exercise is great for weight control. It helps children with asthma improve the strength and efficiency of their heart and lungs. It can also increase their self-esteem, confidence and attitude.
Asthma signs and symptoms can differ among children, so you should get to know your child’s own patterns and triggers. Keep a journal of your child’s asthma symptoms and what may contribute to them. This will help you figure out what triggers the episode. Is it is the weather? Is it a specific allergen in the air? Once you are able to figure out what causes her asthma flair-ups, you can better help her prepare for physical activity.
These tips will help to make sure that your child is able to have fun and enjoy her favorite activities:
- Through your journal, find the patterns of your child’s asthma. This will help you figure out what kind of weather is best for exercise. For instance, some children with asthma have a hard time playing in the winter when the air is dry and cold or on days when high pollen counts or humidity make their asthma worse. On days like these, you might want to have your child take part in an indoor activity.
- Before sending your child out to play or be active, look for early warning signs of a possible asthma flair-up such as the first sign of a cold, dark circles under the eyes, or a change in her behavior.
- You also want to be aware of where your kids are exercising. Avoid letting them play in fields of grass and weeds, or in areas with lots of car or bus fumes.
- Be sure your child warms up before and cools down after his activity or sport.
- Always be sure your child has his medications and quick-relief inhaler with him in case of an attack.
- Before your child begins a sport, work with your doctor to create an asthma-management plan. Copies of the plan should go to anyone who watches your child such as coaches, teachers, babysitters, etc.
There are some sports that are better for kids with asthma, like sports with periods of stop and go that allow them to regain their breath. Sports such as swimming, softball, golf, tennis, and some track and field events are best. Listen to your child and her asthma to determine what sports are best for her. Encourage and support your child to participate in sports and other activities.
Most importantly, remember that asthma does not have to limit your child!