Asthma and Youth Athletes

As many kids in our region know first-hand, asthma is a disease process in which the airway becomes narrow or blocked causing mild to severe difficulty in breathing. Symptoms are usually triggered by allergens, poor air quality, cold dry weather, and on occasion exercise.

Severe symptoms may lead to hospitalization and have the potential for fatality if not corrected in time. Fresno’s own, Ickey Woods, former running back for the Cincinnati Bengals lost his 16 year old son, Jovante, to a severe asthma attack. Ickey has gone on to establish the Jovante Woods Foundation to promote asthma education (

Just about 15%-20% of athletes have asthma. So, it most certainly is possible for a young athlete with asthma to participate in sports if certain precautions are taken. Even though exercise may be a precipitating factor, we also know that being fit is one way to keep asthma under control.

Following are some suggestions which might help:

1. Pre-sports physical – it’s crucial that this physical be conducted prior to the sports season and is much preferred to be conducted by the young athletes own pediatrician.

2. Have a plan – based on your doctor’s advice, know ahead of time what to do in the event of difficulty breathing. This should include removal from activity with the onset of symptoms, having a rescue inhaler readily available, and possibly take medication before a sporting event (must have direction from your doctor)

3. Let your coach know – that your young athlete has asthma, any limitations that are necessary, and what your plan is. Also let your coach know what signs and symptoms to look for.

4. Pay attention to the weather and air quality – as often happens in our area, AQI can be a problem when reaching “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” Also, cold dry weather can bring on symptoms.

With a physician’s advice and preparation, there’s no need to be afraid of getting your athlete out on the pitch and having them give it all they’ve got. Take your doctor’s advice, give meds as directed, be mindful of the air/weather, know your child’s symptoms and get them out there to… Play Hard, Play Safe.

By Carlos Flores RN FCN

As always, remember, play hard/play safe.