Jean is the Director of the Asthma Prevention and Control Program
It’s no secret that physical activity during childhood is important for a healthy future. It’s also no secret that it is often easier said than done, thanks to our busy schedules and the conveniences of technology. But what about kids who face additional challenges, like having asthma? In Massachusetts, about half of the children with asthma limit their normal activities because of their asthma. But does it have to be like this?
For some children, physical activity can make their asthma symptoms worse. However, with the right kind of treatment and support, physical activity can actually help children feel better and allow them to stay active, just like everyone else. Did you know that about 15% of Olympic athletes have asthma? Asthma is more common among elite athletes than the general public. And many of these athletes have won gold medals. Asthma doesn’t have to hold your child back.
To help your child with asthma get active, follow these important steps:
Work with your child and doctor to develop a written asthma management plan (or Asthma Action Plan).
o Talk about medications your child may need to take before being physically active. Some children may need to use rescue or quick-relief medication before being active. For others, rescue medications alone are not enough. They may need controller medication every day to keep their asthma symptoms under control.
Monitor your child during activity and have rescue medication handy.
o Make sure your child knows the signs of an asthma attack and how to respond. If your child is in school or day care, make sure the nurse, teachers and coaches know about your child’s asthma, can recognize signs of an asthma attack, and can respond when needed.
Make sure your child has a good warm up period of about 5 to 10 minutes of stretching and light activity before starting any vigorous activity.
o Cooling down is just as important, and so is keeping your child well hydrated. Taking these steps before, during, and after physical activity will help your child to breathe easy and reduce the chances of having severe symptoms, such as an asthma attack.
Take extra precautions with cold air sports, such as wearing a scarf to cover the nose and warming up longer. Cold air can make the airways tighten quickly.
Avoid outdoor exercise on days that have high pollen count or elevated pollution levels.
o If outside on high pollen days, change your child’s clothes when they come indoors and have them take a bath or shower. To sign up for an air quality forecast for your community, go to: http://www.enviroflash.info/signup.cfm.
Avoid indoor triggers such as tobacco smoke, mold and dust. Talk to your doctor about things you can do in your home to make your child’s asthma better.
Regular physical activity will help your child feel healthier overall – it creates a strong body and a strong mind. Just remember - all people with asthma can lead full active lives with proper treatment and support! Don’t let asthma keep your child out of the game!