Strategy 4: Manage Physical Education & Activity

Physical education class and recess provide opportunities for students to be active and healthy during the school day. Students with well-controlled asthma should be able to participate in physical education and activity when they are able. However, vigorous activity for students who do not have well-controlled asthma can bring on their asthma symptoms.

Many students with asthma have exercise-induced asthma (EIA), in which asthma symptoms are triggered by rapidly breathing cold or dry air during exercise. Children with EIA should be encouraged to participate in physical activity; they can benefit from taking medication prior to exercise as well as having an extended and gradual warm-up.

Encourage full participation when students are well

Students with asthma can participate in activity when they are symptom-free and in their "green" peak flow zone. An asthma action plan should be on file for each student in the school with asthma. The plan provides details on an individual's peak flow zones, asthma symptoms, medications and actions to take during a breathing emergency. Educate all school personnel so everyone understands how to read a student's asthma action plan.

The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program's Asthma & Physical Activity in the School Making a Difference provides guidance on how to keep students with asthma active and physically fit.

Read more about encouraging full participation in physical activity when students are well.

Manage physical activity for students with asthma

There is no perfect activity for a student with EIA, but all sports can be tolerated if a student's asthma is under control. Because some parents and educators may be apprehensive about engaging a child with asthma in physical activity, make sure to clearly communicate how exercise benefits the lungs.

Learn more about monitoring individual asthma management. The Winning with Asthma program is an online course for physical education instructors and coaches who want to learn how to manage students with asthma.

Read more about managing physical activity for students with asthma.

Ensure ready access to pre-medication and quick-relief medication

All 50 states have laws in place that allow students to self-carry and self-administer medications. Each state law around access to medication is different, so familiarize yourself with local policy and processes. While all schools must allow students to self-carry their medications, it is not always properly communicated with students and their families.

Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics provides a national look on the laws associated with a child's right to self-carry their medication at school.

Read more about ensuring ready access to pre-medication and quick relief medication.

Provide options for modified activities

Exercise modifications are outlined in an individual's asthma action plan. When a student is in the "green" zone, the student is free to participate without modification. However, modifications will be needed if a student's peak flow reading or symptoms are in the "yellow" zone. Modifications could include extended warm-up and cool-down periods, pre-medication or incorporating less intense aerobic activities, to name a few. If a student's peak flow reading or symptoms are in the "red" zone, stop activity and follow their asthma action plan.

Read more about options for modified physical activity.

Page last updated: November 17, 2022

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