Tips for Managing Your Child's Sports-Induced Asthma
My 13-year-old son (Brandon) has sports-induced asthma. He's crazy for sports, especially ice hockey and soccer. I get nervous every time he plays a game. If it's too cold in the arena I think he's going to have an asthma attack. If it's too hot or humid outside, I urge him to skip his soccer game that day. I am made to feel that I am always nagging him about bringing his puffers to the team bench. Am I being an over-protective mother? Is it safe for him to play sports? Please help.
Dear Mrs. Michaels,
I understand your concerns, as my 15-year-old daughter has had sports-induced asthma since she was six years old. Believe me when I say it gets a lot easier the older they get. She enjoys snowboarding and plays soccer at a pretty high level and has survived the extreme cold, as well as hot and humid conditions over the years.
Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA) Defined
Exercise-induced asthma occurs when the main air passages of the lungs, the bronchial tubes, become inflamed. The muscles of the bronchial walls tighten, and cells in the lungs produce extra mucus. This can cause signs and symptoms that range from minor wheezing to severe trouble breathing.
Exercise seems to trigger asthma attacks because as your intensity goes up, your breathing rate goes up and you start to take shallow breaths through your mouth. The warming and humidifying breathing process through your nose does not take place and this change can sometimes trigger an attack. Therefore, you are right to be a little extra nervous when your son plays sports -- especially in colder environments and during outdoor games when pollen levels are higher. This does not mean he can't participate, though. As long as you are prepared, Brandon can play high-intensity sports at any time. In fact, his lungs will become stronger the more often he challenges his body.
Asthma Action Plan
Mrs. Michaels, the main thing you need to do is have an action plan. Work with Brandon's doctor to create a step-by-step guide for preventing, recognizing and treating an asthma attack. Include a list of medications, dosages and contact numbers.
All coaches and even some of the team's parents should be kept in the loop of your plan. They should know exactly what to do if an attack were to occur.
Some Quick Tips
- Many kids benefit from using a short-acting bronchodilator such as albuterol about 15 minutes before exercise.
- Be extra cautious if Brandon has had a recent attack and the environment is extremely cold.
- Have Brandon take breaks often, especially if the air outside is poor quality.
- If the temperature is very cold, he should use a scarf to warm the air he breathes.
- If your son has a cold, take extra time to rest to ensure the infection is gone.
- He should practice breathing in his nose and out his mouth during high-intensity bouts of exercise.
- You should update and/or revise the plan often.