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Spring 2010
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Don't Let Exercise-Induced Asthma Slow Down your Child

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Exercise is a great idea for everyone, including kids with exercise-induced asthma. Try to encourage your child to be active, while also keeping his or her asthma under control by following the doctor's instructions.

In addition to keeping your child fit and maintaining a weight healthy, exercise can improve lung function by strengthening the breathing muscles in the chest. Ask your child's doctor about exercise and what kinds of precautions your child should take.

Recommended Activities

Some sports are less likely to cause problems for children with exercise-induced asthma, including:

  • walking
  • jogging
  • hiking
  • golf
  • baseball
  • football
  • gymnastics
  • shorter track and field events

Endurance sports – like long-distance running and cycling and those that require extended energy output like soccer and basketball – may be more challenging for children with exercise-induced asthma. This fact is especially true for cold-weather endurance sports like cross-country skiing or ice hockey.

But that doesn't mean your child can't participate in these sports if he or she truly enjoys them. In fact, many athletes with asthma have found that with proper training and medication, they can participate in any sport they choose.

Safety Tips

For the most part, children with exercise-induced asthma can do anything their peers can do. But be sure to follow the suggestions given by your child's doctor. Here are some of the tips often recommended:

  • Warm up before exercise to prevent chest tightening. (Warm-up exercises can include five to 10 minutes of walking or any other light activity in addition to stretching or flexibility exercises.)
  • Breathe through the nose during exercise.
  • Take brief rests during exercise and use rescue medication, as prescribed, if symptoms start.
  • Cool down after exercise to help slow the change of air temperature in the lungs.

In addition, if your child is experiencing symptoms, he or she shouldn't start exercising until the symptoms subside.

If air pollution or pollen also trigger your child's asthma symptoms, he or she may want to exercise indoors when air quality is poor or pollen counts are high. And your child should avoid exercise when he or she has an upper respiratory infection.

You can help by ensuring your child takes all medicine prescribed by the doctor, even on days when he or she feels fine. Skipping controller medication can make symptoms worse and forgetting to take rescue medication before exercise can lead to severe flare-ups and even emergency department visits.

Make sure your child always has access to his or her rescue medication. Also, have extras on hand and be sure to check your child's supplies so that he or she isn't carrying around an empty inhaler.

Source: excerpt from KidsHealth.org

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Good Health for Kids is produced by Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.