Snow Days With Asthmatic Children

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

I don't know about you, but we live in the part of the country that just got slammed by winter storm Octavia.   Thankfully we avoided a lot of the ice that most of our state got and were left with mainly snow--quite a bit of white, fluffy snow.   Snow calls to my children with hopes of snowball fights, sledding and, of course, they _want to build a snowman. _

For most parents there would be little hesitation--aside from the warm clothing prep time--in allowing your kids those fun hours playing in the snow.   For parents like us who have two asthmatic children the cold weather "fun" can be an asthma attack just waiting to happen.

If you do choose to send your asthmatic out to play here are a few tips to make it a little bit easier on their lungs.

Make a medication plan.

When the weather outside is cold, be sure to keep up with your child's maintenance medications as directed by their physician.   In some instances you may be instructed to pre-treat with an albuterol or other rescue inhaler before activities that might trigger an asthma attack.   If cold is your child's trigger, ask whether pre-treating might help your child still get some fun time in the snow.   Be sure to have your child's rescue inhaler medication handy should they need it.

Dress warmly and cover the face.

Not only do children with asthma need to dress warmly--like all kids--but it can also be very helpful to cover their mouth and nose with a scarf, muffler or winter face mask.   This allows the air to warm slightly before hitting your child's lungs.   It may not sound like a big deal but for my girls it can really help.

Limit the amount of exercising outdoors.

If your asthmatic is triggered by the cold running laps up and down a hill to sled, it may not be the best bet.   They might be able to build a snowman or make snow ice cream instead.   Allow them to have some fun as tolerated.   Mine will be running laps around our yard no matter what activity I "plan" so we limit our time outside to 30 minutes at a stretch.

During flare ups avoid the cold.

If your child's asthma is already aggravated by one of the many viruses during cold and flu season or by some other trigger it may be best to avoid the cold air as much as possible.   Unless cold air is not a trigger for your child, heading out when they are already breathing poorly can be a recipe for disaster.

While it may not be quite as easy to negotiate a snow day with an asthmatic child, you can still have tons of winter fun if you are careful.   It just may need a few tweaks to be asthma-friendly.   Now go build that snowman.

Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition.She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years.Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).

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