What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung condition that affects about one in 10 children. Kids with asthma have airway inflammation that makes the airways overly sensitive to asthma triggers. These triggers may include cold air, dust, pollen, pet dander, smoke, and physical activity. They cause the airways to swell even more and make extra mucus. This narrows the airways, making it harder to move air in and out of the lungs, resulting in an asthma attack. Symptoms of an attack may include coughing, wheezing (whistling sound while breathing), chest tightness, and shortness of breath.
Can physical activity trigger asthma attacks?
Experts are not sure why exercise can bring on an asthma attack. Breathing fast through your mouth during vigorous exercise can dry out and irritate your airways and may lead to an attack. Breathing in cold air or pollution during exercise might be the reason. Yet, most kids and teens with this condition can do any physical activity if they follow their asthma action plan. Talk with your child's doctor about an asthma action plan to prevent or control symptoms. And ask him or her about physical activity that is best for your child.
Some physical activities are more asthma-friendly and better tolerated than others.
What are some asthma-friendly physical activities?
Activities that are more asthma-friendly include:
- Inline skating
- Involve short bursts of exercise
- Let you control how fast you breathe
- Let you breathe through your nose
- Be less likely to dry out your airways
Tips to get moving
Physical activity is important for anyone's good health, even those with asthma. Activity can also help your child avoid extra weight gain that can lead to health problems, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Use these tips to get your child on the right path to better health:
- Start slow. Have your child ease into the activity with a warm-up for about 10 minutes. Encourage your child not to overdo it on the first day and to always finish up with a cool-down.
- Bring friends. Let your child invite friends along. It's more fun with friends and they can get help if your child has an asthma attack.
- Take breaks. Encourage your child to rest as often as needed and to drink lots of water.
- Mix things up. Suggest different activities on different days to keep it interesting.
- Know the signs. Remind your child to avoid his or her known triggers and breathe through the nose instead of the mouth. On days when asthma symptoms are bothersome, take it easy. And follow the asthma action plan your child's doctor has advised.