Kids with Asthma Can and Should Play Team Sports

Health Professional

So your son is at an age where he is chomping at the bit to play a team sport -- like baseball, football, basketball, soccer or hockey -- and you're wondering if this is a good idea.   What do you do?

Here's what you do:   you let him. There's actually evidence that supports that instead of these activities being harmful, they might actually be beneficial to your child.

Not only can your child learn some life's lessons by participating in sports, he will strengthen his heart and lungs, and increase his ability to participate in strenuous activity over time.   His asthma will actually improve, and so will his spirit.

Plus, there is the problem of childhood obesity, and a proven link between obesity and worsening asthma.   So it's better for you to encourage your child to participate in any activity, rather than discourage it.

That said, how can you help your asthmatic child participate in sports?

Asthma control:   There are so many good asthma medicines on the market today that asthma is much easier to control than, say, 10 years ago.   By working with your doctor, you should be able to get your child on a simple medicine regime that should control his asthma.

Asthma compliance:   The good thing about modern asthma medicines is they only need to be taken once or twice a day.   This makes it easy for your child to remember when to take them:   when you   brush your teeth in the morning, and when you brush your teeth in the evening.

Asthma helper:   You, as the mom or dad, need to help your child remember to take his medicines.   Children are busy and forgetful, and quite often not very reliable with their belongings, let alone their medicine.   It's good your child has some responsibility with his medicine, yet keep a close eye on him.

Rescue medicine:   At all times your child should have a rescue inhaler (like Albuterol), especially while participating in sporting events.

Good coaching:   You will need to not only educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of asthma, you will need to make sure his coach knows too.   If your child is having asthma signs and symptoms, he might be so competitive he will want to keep playing regardless.   It's your job, and the coaches job, to take your child out of the game when he shows signs of distress.

Asthma Action Plan:   You must work with your child's asthma doctor on developing an asthma action plan so you always know what to do when your child shows signs and symptoms of asthma.   Do you have him simply rest, take his rescue inhaler, call the doctor, or drive him directly to the emergency room.   The course of action should be known to both you and the coach.   Of course it's your job to educate the coach.

  1. Know your child's limits:   With good asthma control, many kids will be able to participate in any team sport, even basketball, soccer or track and field where a lot of running is involved.   And many can even participate in hockey, where the air is cold and dry and more likely to trigger asthma.

If those sports bother your child's asthma regardless of good asthma control, there are sports that are good for all asthmatics. They are:

  • Baseball
  • Football
  • Swimming
  • Gymnastics
  • Martial Arts

Make sure coach knows limits:   If it's an outdoor sport, and the weather is cold one day, the coach may need to make adjustments so your child can continue to participate.   If he normally plays centerfield where a lot of running may be indicated, he might need to play first base this night instead.   So adjustments may be needed.

The last thing you will want is for your child to be sitting on the sidelines while the other kids are having fun getting exercise in the process.   With good asthma control, your asthmatic child should be able to participate too.