Children with asthma
All children need regular exercise and activity for proper growth and development. However, certain health conditions can give parents cause for concern regarding their children’s activity level. One of the major health issues that may impact on a child’s ability to be physically active is asthma.
Asthmatic children benefit from exercise, but depending on each child’s specific triggers, the type of exercise should be chosen carefully. There are many different situations that can trigger an asthma attack. Some common trigger factors are:
- Changes in the weather
- Cigarette smoke
- House dust mites
Although there are no exercises or sports that children with asthma should avoid, some are more tolerated by asthmatics than others. Activities and sports that require constant activity with little time for rest, such as running or bike riding, are those most likely to bring on an asthmatic attack. However, with appropriate use of medication and a proper warm up, asthmatic children can participate in most activities.
Types of activity recommended for asthmatics are listed below.
- Swimming is great for asthmatic children. Swimming indoors where the air is warm and moist is particularly beneficial as it reduces any irritation that cold, dry air can cause to the airways.
- Activities with short bursts of effort are great as they allow for rests in activity e.g. sprinting
- Fitness classes are good choices, as well, especially when participants are allowed to take small breaks between exercises.
- Yoga is highly recommended since it helps children improve their breathing and has a relaxing effect.
Asthma attacks can be frightening for both children and parents. It is essential that all care givers of an asthmatic child are aware of the condition and are alert for signs of an attack. Asthmatic children should be actively involved in their own care programs, being made to understand the things that they need to do to minimise the chances of experiencing an attack and knowing what to do when they notice symptoms.
Symptoms of an asthma attack include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
While there is nothing that parents can do to cure their asthmatic children, there are some steps that can minimise the chances of an attack.
- Colds and viruses are the most common trigger for asthma attacks, so teaching children to wash their hands regularly is wise to help minimise the chances that they’ll pick up nasty germs.
- Avoid vigorous or long continuous activity when sick. The already blocked airways are super sensitive meaning that any further strain on the body may bring on an attack.
- Parents should have their asthmatic children tested for common allergens and then take steps to limit their children’s exposure to any of these allergens that may trigger an attack.
- Emotional stress can bring on asthmatic symptoms for some children, with excessive crying likely to result in an attack. While we cannot avoid negative emotions, teaching children relaxation techniques and coping skills can be very useful.
- Children who exercise properly and under the supervision have seen a marked improvement in the management of their symptoms.
- It is normal for parents to worry about the health of their children, particularly when faced with an asthmatic child. However, it is important to remember that providing children with opportunities for exercise and active play benefits their health in many ways including a reduction in asthmatic episodes. Fitness is vital for all children, and asthmatic children are no exception.