Exercise-Induced Asthma and Kids
If your child has exercise-induced asthma, it doesn't have to mean he or she can't enjoy sports. Learn how to help your child cope with this condition.
Exercise is good for almost everyone, but it may trigger symptoms for nine out of 10 kids with asthma. If your child has exercise-induced asthma, it does not have to mean he or she has to stop exercising. With the right diagnosis and treatment, your child should be able to be as active as his or her peers.
What causes exercise-induced asthma? Your child's airways may be overly sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and humidity, especially colder, drier air. People tend to breathe quickly through their mouths when they exercise. Thus, the cold air they take in doesn't get the warming, humidifying effects from breathing more slowly through the nose. Breathing this cold, dry air into the lungs irritates the airways and may trigger asthma symptoms.
Your child may have asthma symptoms only during exercise or may have chronic (long-term) asthma that flares up with exercise.
What are the symptoms of exercise-induced asthma? Symptoms of exercise induced asthma often start within five to 20 minutes of starting exercise and can last for an hour or more afterward. These symptoms may include:
Wheezing Chest tightness with breathing Coughing Shortness of breath
Sometimes the signs are more subtle. A child with uncontrolled exercise-induced asthma may not want to take part in sports or may do poorly in school gym classes.
How do you know if it's exercise-induced asthma? Your child should be checked by a doctor if asthma symptoms appear during or after exercise. To find out if your child has the condition, your doctor may:
Ask about your family's asthma and allergy history Ask about your child's symptoms and what triggers them Do a physical exam Do breathing tests, at rest and after exercise
Exercise-induced asthma may be a sign of undiagnosed chronic asthma that needs to be treated.
Good activity choices for children with exercise-induced asthma Before your child starts any exercise program, check with your doctor about how much and what kinds of activity are OK. Each child is different, and so are their needs. Cold-weather sports or those that require continuous activity are often more likely to trigger an episode. Some activities that are less likely to trigger it include:
Swimming Walking and hiking Biking for pleasure (not racing) Team sports that require shorter bursts of energy, alternating with periods of rest, such as: Baseball Volleyball Basketball Golf Gymnastics Short-distance track and field
How can exercised induced asthma be controlled? A variety of treatments and techniques may help prevent and control your child's exercise-induced asthma. Your child should:
Take medication as directed by the doctor, based on your child's asthma condition and type of exercise. This may include medication taken: Before exercise - to help prevent symptoms During exercise if symptoms occur Daily - to control symptoms if your child has persistent asthma Wear a scarf or ski mask over the mouth and nose when exercising in cold weather. Warm up by walking or doing another light activity before exercising. Breathe through the nose during exercise.
Your child should not exercise outside in very cold weather or when he or she has a cold or other upper respiratory infection. If air pollution or pollen makes your child's symptoms worse, it's a good idea to exercise indoors when air quality is poor or pollen is high.
Make sure your child always has rescue medication on hand. Give your child's school nurse, gym teacher, and coach written instructions on the medications and other techniques that help manage his or her asthma symptoms. Once these important safeguards are in place, your child can most likely enjoy a symptom-free, active lifestyle.