Asthma in the Summer
It's important to keep asthma under control year-round and summer is no exception. But summer fun doesn’t have to be a bust for kids with asthma. With some planning and strategies, all kinds of activities are possible as long as your child sticks to their treatment plan and avoids triggers.
Sports and Physical Activity
Children with asthma can participate in sports and physical activity—it's all about finding the right fit and keeping asthma in control. Sports or activities that have periods of inactivity, like baseball or biking, and slow and gradual warm up are often good options kids with asthma. Swimming is also a good choice since the warm, moist air may keep symptoms away, but be sure the pool area is well-ventilated and doesn't have the strong smell of chlorine, which can be a trigger.
But no sport has to be off limits, shares Christy Sadreameli, M.D., a pediatric pulmonologist and assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
"Children with asthma can typically play many types of sports, but it requires some considerations. Talk to your child's doctor about making sure your child is on the right medication regimen. Some children will need to pre-medicate with albuterol before playing sports and some will need an adjustment in their daily preventative therapy," says Sadreameli. "Other triggers, such as allergies, can be a factor in outdoor activities too, on top of exercise. With attention to the medication regimen and close follow-up, the majority of children with asthma can play the sport of their choice." It's also important to make sure coaches (and counselors) know about your child's asthma and have a copy of their asthma action plan, and that both your child and coach are able to recognize symptoms and know when your child should stop activity and use quick-relief medicine.
Air pollution, hot and humid weather and certain types of pollen are common summertime asthma triggers. But that doesn’t mean outdoor activities are off limits.
Check the air quality before you head outdoors and make an alternative plan if current or forecasted air pollution levels are high. Particles and ozone in the air during poor air quality days can irritate the lungs and trigger asthma attacks. For example, exercise early in the morning before ozone levels get high, limit the amount of time your child spends playing outdoors if the air quality is unhealthy or consider an indoor activity.
Also keep an eye on the weather. Hot weather and even sudden changes in the weather (such as with a sudden thunderstorm) can bring on asthma symptoms. Wind can spread pollen and stir up mold, affecting those who suffer from grass or tree pollen and mold allergies.
Campfires and Fireworks
Camping and summer go hand-in-hand but asthma and campfire smoke do not. Smoke is an asthma trigger, not to mention that wood burning smoke can be unhealthy for many people's lungs.
You can ditch the traditional fire and keep the fun. Do some star gazing. Break out some glow sticks. Build a faux fire with logs and LED lights. Bring pre-made s'mores.
If a campfire is a must, sit upwind of the smoke and avoid getting too close to help prevent an asthma flare-up.
Fireworks can also affect air quality, emitting smoke and particle pollution that can aggravate asthma symptoms. Some precautions to consider: Watch from a distance. Stay upwind of smoke. Go inside if it's too smoky. Have a rescue inhaler nearby.
Traveling and Being Away from Home
Summer vacation often includes overnight stays and travel away from home. Be sure your child is prepared by putting together an asthma travel pack with all of their medicines and instructions. Think about and plan for who will help supervise the medications if you will not be with the child. Also check the weather forecast and air quality where you’re going and plan accordingly.