Asthma vs. Athlete: Make Sure You Win!
Karla L. Robinson, MD
Has your child been given the diagnosis of asthma and have you been fearful of allowing him or her become active in sports?
It’s important to know that having a diagnosis of asthma should not prevent a child from participating in sports. You and your child simply have to work closely with the physician to ensure that the symptoms of asthma are optimally controlled. A primary goal of treatment should be that the asthmatic athlete is able to participate and compete at the same level as the non-asthmatic athlete.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung condition, in which the airways sporadically can become narrow and clogged with mucus. This can lead to bouts of wheezing, cough, shortness of breath, or chest tightness commonly known as “asthma attacks”. The episodes are sometimes triggered by an upper respiratory infection, allergies, extreme weather, environmental allergens, or strenuous physical exercise. There is no cure for asthma, but the symptoms can certainly be controlled through various medications and inhalers that open the airway.
How do I control it?
Optimal asthma control can be defined as:
* Having symptoms of asthma twice per week or less
* Using a rescue inhaler to open the airway twice per week or less
* Not experiencing any sleep disturbance due to symptoms
* Having no limitations at school or during exercise.
This CAN be achieved with the help of your physician by following an “asthma action plan” and by avoidance of potential triggers of asthma symptoms.
What is an asthma action plan?
An asthma action plan is a detailed medical management plan every asthmatic should have. It is developed by your physician and includes your daily regimen and outlines step-by-step what to do when symptoms worsen. It also explains when to call the doctor, or when to call for emergency care. It is helpful for family members, the school, and for any other caretakers to have this information in case of an asthma attack. If you do not have an asthma action plan, ask your doctor for one.
What are triggers?
Triggers are defined as any factors that may potentially induce an asthma attack. Trigger avoidance is an important part of asthma management and occasionally can be overlooked. Some common triggers include air pollutants, mold, household pets, dust mites, cigarette smoke, strong odors and sprays, allergies, and anxiety. It is important to identify your child’s trigger(s) for asthma symptoms as these triggers are not the same for everyone.
What treatment is best?
There are various treatment options for asthma depending on the severity of symptoms. You and your healthcare provider can work together to find a regimen that helps control your child’s symptoms, allowing him or her a healthy and productive life inclusive of sports.