How to Manage Asthma While Playing Sports
As fall sports start to ramp up, so do the airborne allergens. For asthmatic athletes, dropping temperatures and rising pollen levels can mean lots of time coughing and wheezing on the sidelines.
For Michael Goodman, MD, an allergy and immunology specialist with TriHealth’s Group Health, the main concern for asthmatic athletes is not about hampered performance. He's more worried that kids — and even parents — will ignore early signs until they become more severe.
"Sports can be pretty competitive, so some kids, or some parents will have a lot of drive to push through symptoms," Dr. Goodman said. "You need to recognize when your asthma is flaring, take a break, and treat appropriately; before symptoms get out of hand."
How to Tell your Asthmatic Athlete Needs to Take a Break
- Trouble breathing
- Chest tightness
- Not able to keep up with other kids
- Symptoms that last for longer than a 10-minute rest period
"If symptoms are persisting beyond a rest period, if you're seeing (your child) is still not able to keep up with the other kids, they need to stop and take their Albuterol," said Heather Hartman, MD, also and allergy and immunology specialist with TriHealth’s Group Health.
Preventing an Asthmatic Episode
Hartman said taking their Albuterol several minutes before the activity starts is one of the best preventative measures asthmatic athletes can do.
"For asthmatics, it's really important to premedicate," Dr. Hartman said. "Take two puffs of Albuterol 15 minutes before your activity starts."
Hartman also suggested at least five minutes of a slow and building warmup, to ease into the activity.
Controller Medications During Cold and Flu Season
Fall and winter are notorious for the growth and spread of viral infections that can hit asthmatics harder than most. This is where the daily controller medications are vital to maintain, said Jeffrey Raub, MD.
"We think that any type of viral infection you can get can lead to your nose and your sinuses being congested," Dr. Raub said. "When that happens, any asthmatic will always have symptoms in their chest — wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath."
Asthmatics fare better during cold and flu season if they are consistent, Dr. Raub said, if they "make the use of the controller medicines a habit."
Tips for Asthmatic Athletes to Stay Well this Season
- Be consistent with daily controller medications. (This one is the most important.)
- Take two puffs of Albuterol 15 minutes before you begin your activity.
- Start out practice with five minutes of a slow and steady warmup. Ease into it.
- Wear a scarf over your mouth on cold days to warm the air as you breathe it in.
- Get adequate sleep and eat a balanced diet.
- Wash your hands often and try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth too often as that can spread the cold and flu virus more easily.