Is playing sports with asthma safe?

Father playing soccer with two sons

An asthma diagnosis can scare any family, but for families with kids into athletics, it can come with a plethora of worries.

Can my child participate in sports at all? If they can – what do I have to do to help prevent attacks? What supplies do they need on hand in case of an attack?

Playing sports and asthma

According to Kimberly Byrne, Banner Children’s Pediatric Asthma Program Manager, children with asthma can absolutely participate in any sport, as long as the parent, coach and child with asthma take the proper precautions.

“As long as you control the asthma, it should not stop your child from playing the sports he or she loves,” Byrne said.

In fact, it is beneficial to children.

“Children with asthma may have trouble exercising if their asthma is not in control with daily preventative medications, such as inhaled steroids. For children or teens with exercise-induced asthma, a simple step of taking their quick-relief inhaler with a spacer device, such as Albuterol, 15 minutes prior to exercise, will improve their breathing and decrease chance of an asthma flare-up,” Byrne said. “Not allowing your children or teen to have daily physical activity or play sports can cause weight gain, which can lead to asthma becoming worse. Research has also shown that asthmatics who lose weight with exercise and a healthy diet can usually improve their condition and reduce symptoms.”

Know the asthma triggers

Knowing your child’s personal asthma triggers can help in finding the right physical activities for them.

A few sports-related asthma triggers may include:

  • Playing on grass (if allergic to grass)
  • Dirt and dust in the air
  • Other airborne allergens, such as pollen or mold count
  • Overexertion

“If your child has a grass allergy or is triggered when pollen count levels are high in the Valley, indoor sports are also good option,” Byrne said.

Indoor sports can include basketball, wrestling, swimming, volleyball, dancing, martial arts, etc.

Controlling asthma

For a children or teens who need to use their quick-relief medication, such as Albuterol, more than twice a week, daily inhaled steroid medications can help with preventing asthma flare-ups.

“You can control asthma with medications that provide great benefits with few side effects. Children and teens should always be encouraged to participate in physical activities. And, they should never sit on the sidelines at P.E. class,” Byrne said.

Discussing the intended physical activity with your child’s asthma specialist will help in developing a plan. Make sure you have the child’s emergency medications at home, school and with the child at sporting events. Provide a copy of your child’s asthma action plan to the school nurse, coach, teacher and family members. Make sure any adult that cares for your child or teen is aware of their condition.

For further tips about childhood asthma, check out the free Banner Asthma Workbook.

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