Asthma is one of the most common childhood diseases that children can get. About 9% of children in the United States have asthma. Children with asthma frequently experience symptoms such as a tight feeling in the chest, breathlessness, coughing and wheezing. They also have more sensitive airways that may react to certain triggers, leading to asthma attacks. For most children, their symptoms occur early in the morning, at night or during physical exercise.
Does this mean that these children should avoid exercise? The answer is no. Exercise is important for the growth and development of young children. Moreover, regular exercise can help to ease the symptoms of asthma over time by increasing lung capacity and reducing inflammation in the lungs.
How Exercise Helps with Asthma
When children with asthma engage in physical activity, they are working out their heart and lungs. Over time, their heart and lungs become strengthened which improves their breathing. This decreases the severity of the symptoms, such as breathlessness, that they experience. Consequently, it also reduces the frequency of asthma attacks. Therefore, regular exercise is essential for improving the quality of life for these children.
What to Note
- Potential Triggers
Every child’s experience with asthma is different. For example, different children will have different triggers and different treatments that they are suited for. To effectively manage your child’s symptoms, it is crucial that you are well-informed of the triggers of your child’s asthma. Some common triggers are pollution, dust, pollen and grass. Minimizing exposure to your child’s triggers will allow them to enjoy physical exercise without a decreased risk of having an asthma attack.
- Asthma Management Plan
It is also recommended to put together an asthma management plan, consisting of a list of your child’s asthma medication and their appropriate doses, instructions on steps to take if symptoms worsen, and what to do in an asthma emergency. Remember to inform your child’s teachers and coaches of your child’s asthma management plan as well so that they can help to ensure his or her safety.
- Reliever Medication
Your child should take reliever medication at least 15 minutes prior to physical activity. This is especially important if they are exercising early in the morning or at night or in the winter months. This is because strenuous activity for more than six minutes in cold and dry air is likely to trigger an asthma attack. They should also warm up before exercise and cool down afterwards.
Some Recommended Exercises
The best sports and exercises for children with asthma are low-intensity activities or activities that require brief bursts of exertion. Here are some examples:
Swimming is great for children with asthma as it builds up the muscles that are used for breathing. It is also less likely to trigger an asthma attack since the air they breathe in will be warm and moist.
Yoga increases breath and body awareness, slows down the respiratory rate and promotes calmness. It can help these children to control their breathing and relieve stress, which is another common trigger.
- Leisurely Biking
As long it is not done in extreme temperatures or in a dusty or pollen-filled environment, biking can be quite beneficial for children with asthma. It builds endurance, strengthens muscles and improves cardiovascular fitness.
- Sports with Intermittent Breaks
These include baseball, volleyball, gymnastics, football and golf. These sports are gentler on the lungs since they consist of periodic breaks.