Asthma and Sports: How to Help Your Child Play It Safe

asthma and sports

Learn which sports may be better for kids with asthma and how to make sure your child is safe during exercise.

Your child with asthma doesn’t have to sit on the sidelines and watch other kids play sports. As long as his or her asthma is under control, most types of exercise are possible and should be encouraged. Participation in competitive sports is also possible.

If your child’s asthma isn’t well controlled, exercise may cause an increase in symptoms. A visit to your child’s doctor is in order.

Your child may have well-controlled asthma, yet still get symptoms during exercise. This is called exercise-induced asthma. In either case, an asthma treatment plan can be developed that will let your child be as active as possible. Ask the doctor what activities are best for your child.

Some sports may be better than others. But, overall, exercise can help strengthen your child’s lungs. Activity also can help your child avoid weight gain that can lead to other health problems down the road.

Which sports are best?

Sports less likely to cause attacks are those that require short – often intense – bursts of effort. These may be good options for your child with asthma:

  • Baseball
  • Golf
  • Swimming (also an endurance sport, but often OK due to warm, moist air around pools)
  • Volleyball

Endurance or distance sports are more likely to cause an asthma attack. Such activities, which require constant effort and offer few chances to rest, may not be appropriate for a child with asthma:

  • Basketball
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Long-distance running
  • Soccer

Keep in mind that allergens and the environment play a role too. Pollen, dust, air pollution, dry and cold air, and other factors may trigger symptoms. This can affect your choice of whether to have your child play indoor or outdoor sports.

How do you make sure it’s safe for your child to play sports?

First, talk to your child’s doctor. Make sure you have, and follow, an asthma action plan to control your child’s asthma. The plan should include:

  • Details about your child’s asthma
  • Details on medicines: how and when to use
  • Symptoms to watch out for
  • What to do in an emergency
  • How to contact you, another guardian, and your child’s doctor
  • Your child’s average peak flow readings

Give a copy of your child’s action plan to coaches, teachers, the school nurse, and other caregivers.

  • Make sure your child’s medicines and peak flow monitor are available at all times.
  • Check that your child is allowed to use medicines any time they are needed.
  • Discuss your child’s asthma with teachers and coaches so you feel comfortable they know how to follow the action plan.

What can you do to help prevent problems?

  • Don’t let your child exercise when sick. Having a cold or other respiratory infection makes attacks more likely.
  • Teach your child to start slowly. Warming up before and cooling down after vigorous exercise is important. About 15 minutes of warm-up and cool-down is good.
  • Talk to your child about changing his or her activities if conditions are bad. For example, if air pollution is high or there is a lot of pollen in the air, it may be better to exercise indoors.
  • Make sure your child’s medicine is readily available in a locker or gym bag if he or she needs to use it before exercise (usually 5 to 15 minutes before beginning.
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