Can a Child with Asthma Participate in Sports?

Physical activity helps a child with asthma learn to breathe adequately. Thus, sports can help children who suffer from this condition.
Can a Child with Asthma Participate in Sports?

Last update: 23 April, 2019

Can a child with asthma participate in sports? It’s one of the greatest unknowns among families with children who have this condition. Many children with asthma yearn to play a particular sport, but their parents aren’t sure if it’s safe for a child with this condition.

You shouldn’t prevent children with asthma from participating in the sports they like. Contrary to what some would think, physical exercise is actually beneficial for them. It can help improve respiratory fitness and help them maintain a healthy weight.

It’s clear that as a parent or caregiver you must always use caution and evaluate the conditions under which the sports activity will be carried out.

The other benefits of participating in sports for a child with asthma are physical and mental wellbeing, as well as improved self-esteem and self-confidence. At the same time, participating in sports activities with other children helps to build their social skills.

You only need to make sure that the asthma is under control to take advantage of all the aforementioned benefits. You should always have the necessary medicines on hand and regularly visit a medical specialist.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition which produces an excess of coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing or dyspnoea. There are children who exhibit this pathology when they first initiate physical activity, or soon after they complete it. This kind of asthma is called exercise-induced asthma or sports asthma.

This type of asthma doesn’t impede a child from participating in sports. On the contrary, it’s actually benefitting the child to participate in sports. It brings them a lot of health benefits and positive effects on emotional stability.

The important thing is that the child and his coach or trainer know when he needs to stop for a rest or to finish practice or training.

There are a great variety of sports and recreational activities that can be carried out by children with this respiratory condition. The right activity would be that activity the child likes most.

Otherwise, the child will use his or her condition as an excuse to quit or give up. The important thing is that the child feels comfortable and can enjoy the pastime. 

Can a Child with Asthma Participate in Sports?

Apart from scuba diving with compressed air tanks (which isn’t recommended), a child with asthma can participate in any type of sport. Some types of sports are less asthma-provoking than others, and we should be careful to recognize the onset symptoms of an asthma attack in time.

If the children tolerate the physical demands of the activity themselves, it isn’t necessary to medicate them before practice. On the other hand, if there are complications, the proper response is that the children take their medicine 10 minutes before beginning the activity.

The sports that cause the most asthma symptoms are those that require a sustained level of exertion over time. Sports like resistance training, cycling, track and field, climbing, basketball, rugby, football, skating, or ice hockey require a lot of exertion. These require that the players use a lot of energy with few opportunities to rest.

On the other hand, sports like gymnastics, golf, swimming and water polo in a covered and heated pool, yoga, leisurely bike rides, hiking, fencing, and martial arts (judo, karate, taekwondo), are less likely to cause an asthma attack because they alternate periods of exertion and rest.

It’s clear from what is stated above that children with asthma can do sports. They can lead normal lives and can regularly attend school free from episodes and symptoms of the condition.

Recommendations so a child with asthma can participate in sports

  • It’s important that the child does a light warmup for 15 minutes before starting any physical activity.
  • Avoid at all costs that the child does any exercise while having an active asthma attack.
  • Clear nasal passages. We need to assure the child is breathing adequately through both the nose and mouth.
  • Have the child exercise moderately so the body has time to adapt to the movements and the type of respiration needed.
Can a Child with Asthma Participate in Sports?
  • If possible, always try to avoid cold and dry environments, as well as polluted or contaminated environments. You also need to avoid places where there is the presence of smoke.
  • Avoid intense and prolonged exercise – especially when the child isn’t in the right physical condition or unfamiliar with the level of effort the sport requires.
  • See a specialist for asthma treatment. The child should take the medicine prescribed before performing any physical activity, if necessary. Always consider the steps caregivers can take to avoid an attack.

Children with asthma can participate in school sports as long as the teachers are aware of the condition. The school staff need to help the child feel comfortable.

Physical activity is necessary for children’s growth and good health. Preventing them from participating in activities is a mistake we should completely avoid. Consider sports as part of their treatment.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.