A big issue
Sports and asthma is a big issue because parents sometimes want to limit their child’s participation in sports, and understandably so, especially when a child goes out to play and starts wheezing and puffing and needing to use their inhaler.   But there are a lot of benefits from participating in sports for the vast majority of children who have asthma, and if their asthma is well controlled and if the appropriate precautions are taken, they can participate in sports and can participate in sports fully. When encouraging families there is sometimes a little bit of disbelief about that and so you have to point out that by exercising, your child’s lung function improves and builds up its breathing capacity and all these technical, medical things, but that’s actually a good thing, that’s something that in the long run may help the child in dealing with their asthma.

Shari Nethersole, MD, Pediatrician


Asthma and Obesity
There is not necessarily a cause and effect relationship between them, but there are a significant number of kids who have asthma who are also overweight. Being overweight is an issue in the general population, but I think for the kids who have asthma it is particularly concerning. These kids already have one reason why they’re not exercising, and if their asthma is poorly controlled so that exercising makes them wheeze, it’s going to make their weight issue much worse. I don’t think there is any study that says that obesity is more prevalent in kids with asthma, but both of those things are really common, and if you have both together I think it’s a double edged sword and you’ve got two things that you’ve got to work on.

Shari Nethersole, MD, Pediatrician


Exercise is generally a good thing to do
Sports are big issues with teenagers. Exercise is generally a good thing to do, because it helps children build up tolerance and improve their pulmonary function. They just need to pace themselves and learn to push themselves a little bit, but not to the point where they’re very symptomatic. Often I have to write a note to the school or the coach asking that my patient be allowed to pace himself or herself during sports.

Elizabeth R. Woods, MD, MPH, Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine


Strongly encourage kids to do sports
I strongly encourage kids with asthma to do sports. If their asthma is out of control, and they can’t do sports, then I want to hear about it to see if we can do anything to relieve their symptoms. Some kids don’t do sports or other things because they have asthma. Kids with asthma can and should participate in sports or physical activities. If they cannot participate because of asthma symptoms, they should let their provider know. Changes can be made in their asthma treatment so that they  can  do those things.

Karol Timmons RN, MS, CPNP, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner


Encourage kids to be as active as they can be
We encourage kids to be as active as they can be. I’m very reluctant to sign gym excuse forms so that they don’t participate, because we want them to get treated in order to fully participate. Of course regardless of the treatment there will be times when episodes will temporarily interfere with activities. This for most children should be only briefly. Some sports may not be as good as others for a particular child, and I may have to advise on what the best sport is for him or her, but we want them to be able to play as many of them as they can. I often point out that there are many elite athletes with asthma.   Between 15 and 18 percent of Olympic athletes have asthma.

Frank Twarog, MD, PhD, Allergist


Allowing children to be active
We strongly encourage patients to exercise and participate in sports, and we have several patients who are very accomplished athletes. Sometimes parents, with the best intentions, try to limit their child’s exercise in order to prevent asthma attacks. We work with the families and their providers to come up with an Asthma Action Plan* that allows children to be active. Also, for adolescents in particular, sports can be a big incentive to take their asthma medications and get their asthma under control. I would love to get coaches more involved in reinforcing the need for kids to take their asthma medications, especially adolescents, since sometimes the coach can be very influential.

Susan Sommer, RNC, NP, Community Asthma Initiative


Taking medicine can help
When kids are feeling well they may think they don’t need their medications, and tend to stop taking them. For patients who participate in sports, we encourage them to take their medication explaining that it will allow them to play their best during the sport. I will discuss with patients “If you want to play the best in your sport you need to take your medication even if you’re feeling well.” A lot of them are like “Yeah, really?” This approach seems to catch their attention.

Kathleen Waddicor, RN, BSN, Division of Adolescent Medicine