What Exercises Work
For children diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma, some activities may be easier for them to participate in than others. Sports or activities that involve short, intermittent bursts of exertion — such as baseball, kickball, karate, golf, short-term track and field events, surfing, aerobics, volleyball, gymnastics, walking, hiking, and wrestling — are generally better tolerated. Even the practice of yoga, which uses both stretching, breathing, and meditation techniques, may provide benefits for the child with asthma.
Swimming has proven to be a popular sport among children with asthma because it is conducted in an environment that is warm and humid, can be done year-round, and builds upper body strength. However, ongoing research is looking at whether swimming sometimes could aggravate asthma due to swimmers' exposure to chlorine byproducts in the air and the water.
On the other hand, activities that involve longer periods of exertion and movement — such as soccer, long-distance or marathon running, basketball, and field hockey — may be less well tolerated by the child. In addition, cold weather sports that require constant motion — such as ice skating, ice hockey, and cross-country skiing — could also be challenging. However, with proper training and treatment, children with asthma can still participate in these sports.
One sport that has generated much discussion in recent years is scuba diving. Until a few years ago, the general thought was that no asthmatics should be permitted to dive because of concerns about air flow obstruction. But with great strides in management of asthma — due to new medications — and with the recognition that there are varying degrees of asthma, new recommendations have emerged that asthmatics can scuba dive, provided their medical condition is carefully evaluated by a medical professional before a dive.
When children engage in unscheduled physical activity, such as playing on the playground or participating in a game of pickup basketball, they may not have their medications with them. In these instances, a simple long-acting regimen given at home might be more effective than short-acting drugs that must be administered in a timely fashion for the child with exercise-induced asthma.
Another fun kid sport — horseback riding — can be considered, but only after consulting with your health care provider. Riding horses could prove problematic for children with animal-related allergies.
Banned or Okay Medication
If your child becomes more actively involved in organized sports, questions are likely to come up regarding whether the asthma medication being used is legal or banned during competition.
The broad answer lies not in whether the medication is medically necessary, but rather if it can be determined to be performance-enhancing — giving an athlete what would be considered an unfair competitive advantage.
Since several organizations may have oversight on this determination, the athlete using asthma medications should check with his coaches, health care provider, and appropriate athletic authority to learn the status of the medications and what actions need to be taken ahead of time.
Various athletic organizations differ on what is banned or allowed in terms of asthma medication used by athletes during competition. For instance, the United States Olympic Committee follows International Olympic Committee guidelines for testing. While many amateur athletic organizations have also adopted these guidelines regarding drug testing at sports events, they are not universal.