Almost one out of every 10 children in the United States has asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which means that nearly one out of 10 parents is often wary of factors that could cause their child to have an asthma attack.
The situation may be even more frustrating for the families with asthmatic children who are overweight, because the condition can significantly worsen respiratory symptoms, complicate treatment, and put kids at higher risk for hospitalization. That's because obesity appears to greatly reduce the effectiveness of inhaled steroids, the most potent class of asthma medications which stave off attacks.
We also believe that obesity makes the lungs' airways dysfunctional by altering how they react to common asthma triggers and reducing their ability to stay open normally. While these connections aren't fully understood, the research community is continuing to investigate links between these two conditions.
As a researcher treating pediatric pulmonary diseases by day and a dad for three active kids by night, I greatly value the physical and mental benefits of exercise for all kids. As long as it is carefully managed, physical activity can usually improve both lung function and asthma control over time.
Exercise can be a trigger for asthma, so it's also understandable that many parents are worried that a game of football or soccer will trigger an attack. But their anxiety can be contagious and can frighten their kids into avoiding exercise that actually could help them.
Asthma should not be used as an excuse to avoid exercise. Sadly, this is extremely important point is a common misconception. In fact, the research emphasizes that adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle are likely to lead to a healthier weight and reduce asthma symptoms as well.
Here are a few tips you can use when trying to plan an active routine for your child this summer:
- Talk with your doctor and insist that you would like your child's asthma controlled so that he or she can be active.
- Before doing any activities, make sure you have an "Asthma Action Plan" from your doctor so that you know how to prepare for exercise and you know what to do when asthma symptoms develop.
- Reduce sedentary time like screen time in front of computers, tablets, and TV and encourage your child to be active.
- Work with your child to adopt a healthy diet by eating lots of fruits and vegetables.
Even Olympic athletes suffer from asthma, but it doesn't stop them from competing. If a child with persistent asthma works to establish and maintain good health routines, including exercise, they may not become an Olympian, but they could end up breathing easier -- and so will their parents.