“On your mark. … Get set. … GO!” School sports are in full swing. Whether you run track or cross-country, play soccer or basketball, sports seasons can activate asthma.
Asthma symptoms include coughing, having a hard time breathing, tightness in the chest, or noisy or wheezing sounds when breathing. Asthma tends to run in families and can come on at any age. Many athletes do not even know they have asthma.
While the cause of asthma is not known, there are a variety of things that can bring on the symptoms. When it comes to playing sports, several things come to mind. Exercise in combination with pollen from trees and grasses, cold air, wind, and dust all make for miserable “breathing” days while competing or practicing.
Controlling asthma during performance
Darcy Ellefson from Sanford Health’s pulmonary rehab team explains that even though it is impossible to avoid these things during your sport, it is possible to help prevent asthma from affecting your performance.
- See your doctor for any type of asthma symptoms. If you cannot exercise because of symptoms, are waking up at night with symptoms, or are using your reliever inhaler more than two times a week because of symptoms, your asthma is not under control. Uncontrolled asthma will affect your performance and can be life threatening.
- Take your medicine as instructed. This might include allergy pills, nose sprays, or controller asthma inhalers. To be the most effective, make sure you are taking these every day even when you are feeling fine. If you do not take these year round, you should start them at least one month before your season.
- Always have your reliever inhaler such as albuterol with you. This often is taken 15-30 minutes before running to help prevent exercise induced asthma. Make sure the inhaler is not expired or empty.
- Warm-ups and cool downs are very important.
Tips for athletes during asthma attacks
If you have problems with your asthma during exercise, follow these steps:
- Stop activity. Do not lie down; get out of the wind and cold.
- Stay calm. Relax shoulders and breathe out slowly through puckered lips.
- Get your inhaler. Take your reliever inhaler; if not better, take your inhaler again and get help. If you do not have an inhaler, get help.
- Get help. Call for an ambulance if breathing gets harder or does not improve, having trouble walking or talking, or if lips or fingernails are blue.
Just because you have asthma does not mean that you cannot excel in spring sports. With some preplanning and good communication with your doctor, asthma should not prevent you from being the best you can be.
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