If you are an adult or an older child with asthma, you by now understand your limitations and have set realistic goals regarding your health, exercise and wellness routines. You aren’t letting asthma slow you down. But what about adults or parents of children who have recently been diagnosed with asthma? For them, there is uncertainty and concern, especially with regard to exercise.
One of the most common questions asked about asthma is whether it is safe to exercise with it. The answer is a resounding yes and, as a matter of fact, exercise for asthmatics is encouraged! But before you set out to run your first marathon or sign up for that spinning class, there are certain things you need to keep in mind to ensure your activities are beneficial, not a hindrance.
How Exercise Benefits Asthma
When you exercise, every part of your body benefits. The same is true for asthmatics. Exercise not only keeps you in shape and improves your mood, the more you exercise the less chance you will have for having an asthma attack. In fact, exercise –
- Strengthens your heart and lungs, making you less susceptible to flare-ups.
- Improves your immune system, meaning that if you are triggered by allergies, the flare-ups will be less intense.
- Helps control weight, meaning there is less strain on your cardiovascular system, causing it to function more efficiently. In fact, obesity is a risk factor for developing asthma.
- Stretches your lungs and bronchial tubes, thereby reducing resistance to breathing and inflammation.
Know your Triggers
The irony of having “exercise-induced asthma” is not lost on most longtime asthmatics. The theory is that exercise actually causes asthma, which is not the case. Triggers may cause an asthmatic to have an attack, but exercise itself does not cause asthma. Asthmatics know what triggers an attack and are very well prepared for it. Parents of asthmatics have mapped out scenarios to ensure their child is safe and prepared for sports and activities. Whether it is having an allergy test to find out what you may be allergic to, or keeping a journal of things that have set you off, knowing your triggers can help you prevent an attack before it starts. For example, if you exercise in a stuffy or moldy gym, consider outdoor exercises or a gym that is better ventilated. If dust triggers your asthma, try a pick-up game or activity outside. If your asthma is brought on by stress, learn to work through strategies. Whatever it is that results in an asthma attack, adjusting your routine beforehand can reduce or eliminate the possibility of sitting out.
Make it Known
While asthma is extremely common, athletes (both child and adult) don’t want to be seen as having a handicap that could either put them at an advantage or disadvantage. But keeping quiet about your asthma is doing no one any good. Be sure your trainer or your child’s coach or gym teacher knows of the condition. And if you can’t keep an inhaler with you on the playing field or in your pocket, be sure your trainer, coach or teacher knows where it is in case it is needed in an emergency. Having open communications with your athletic trainers and coaches – as well as school nurses and teachers – and having your most current physical on file, will ensure that in case of emergency, everyone is prepared.
Take Your Meds
If your asthma is mild, your family doctor will prescribe an albuterol rescue inhaler, which is used to quell an attack as it presents. However, if you are diagnosed with more severe asthma, you or your child will be referred to an allergy specialist who very likely will prescribe a maintenance inhaler. Maintenance inhalers are taken once or twice daily to reduce your risk of flare ups and are usually a combination of both a corticosteroid and a bronchodilator. It is very important to take your medication as prescribed, as well as keep your prescription up to date and current. If you child is on a team or in a gym class, ensure the proper paperwork is in place to administer the medication, as required; and ensure any changes in dose or instructions are annotated clearly and in a timely manner.
No one likes to sit on the sidelines. Chances are if you or your child has asthma, you aren’t looking at it as a roadblock, but a challenge to be overcome. Your family’s allergist is your partner in managing and treating asthma. If you live in the Tampa area, breathe easy! Dr. Sham Juratli can help you understand asthma, medications, and other methods of managing your loved one’s condition. Call (313) 451-8253 today to make an appointment.