Asthma, kids and sports
Traci D. Arney is a nurse practitioner who specializes in pediatric pulmonology at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.
Question: My son has asthma and is slightly overweight. I know exercise is important, especially to keep him at a healthy weight, but is it safe for him to play sports?
Answer: Asthma is a chronic disease affecting more than a half million people in Arizona.
The condition can be triggered by allergies, upper respiratory infections, exercise, poor air quality, fumes and exposure to tobacco smoke.
During an asthma attack, the muscles in the lungs tighten around the airway, the cells in the breathing tube swell, and the body produces mucus that clogs the airway, making it difficult to breath.
Though experts are not sure whether obesity causes asthma or vice versa, being overweight does make the condition worse.
Also, children with asthma may have trouble exercising because they find it hard to breathe, and lack of physical activity can cause weight gain. Research has also shown that asthmatics who lose weight with exercise and a healthy diet can usually improve their condition and reduce symptoms.
Asthma can be controlled with medications that provide great benefits with few side effects. Children should be encouraged to participate in physical activities by parents, teachers and health care providers.
As long as the asthma is controlled, it won’t stop your son from playing the sports he loves. Asthma Athletics, a non-profit organization in Arizona (asthmaathletics.com), works with families to help them understand the condition and prepare children to participate in the sports of their choice.