Thinking back to middle school gym class, I remember teachers going out of their way to make sure my classmates with asthma didn’t over-exert themselves. On the surface that may seem like a good idea, but today many medical professionals are encouraging kids with asthma to be just (or nearly as) active as their peers.
The rationale? An active lifestyle can help all children stay fit and maintain a healthy weight, but for kids with asthma the exercise can also strengthen their breathing muscles and help their lungs work better.
The experts at KidsHealth from Nemours highlight two important things children with asthma should know about participating in sports:
- Their asthma must be under control if they want to play.
- When their asthma is well controlled, they can – and should – be active and play sports just like anyone else.
As you might expect, certain sports will be better-suited for children with asthma. KidsHealth suggests swimming, leisurely biking and walking are less likely to trigger asthma flare-ups, along with sports that use short bursts of activity like baseball, football, gymnastics and shorter track and field events.
On the other hand, endurance sports like distance running, soccer and basketball could be too intense (depending on the severity of a child’s condition). Even so, there are plenty of athletes who use a combination of training and medication to overcome their asthma symptoms and participate in their favorite sports.
A few pointers for athletes with asthma:
- Take your medication as prescribed.
- Carry rescue medication at all times, even during workouts, in case of a flare-up.
- Know and avoid your triggers (pollen, mold, cold air, etc.).
- Make sure your coach knows about your asthma and what steps to take if you experience symptoms.
In May, Frederick Memorial Hospital (FMH) celebrated its fourth-annual Asthma Awareness Day with a special day camp for local kids with asthma called Camp YesUCan. The free camp, staffed by childhood asthma experts, incorporated asthma education into games and physical activities to show each of the kids that when their asthma is in control they can be just as active as other children.
“This was the most rewarding experience of my 20-year career,” said Certified Asthma Educator Cherie Hyssong. “Our campers may have serious cases of asthma, but here they got to have a great summer camp experience and learn more about managing their conditions.”
In addition to the fun and lessons learned, each camper received a peak flow meter, spacer for medication delivery, mattress cover and a HEPA filter. One lucky winner won a HEPA vacuum cleaner to use at home.