School Athletes and Asthma (Or Is It?)

Ah, back to school time. I know everyone is sick of hearing about COVID -- so let's talk about school sports teams!

My two sons weren't very coordinated when it came to sports. They must have inherited it from me - I can't walk and chew gum at the same time. I also fall UP stairs. True story.

Managing asthma and sports

When my daughter was in high school, she wanted to try out for several team sports. She loved soccer, track, and cross country, and was excited when she and her friends made the teams.

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I carefully scheduled her track meets into my calendar and left the office early to watch her run. My daughter has exercise-induced asthma, so I wanted to make sure she remembered her asthma doctor's directions to pre-medicate with her quick-relief/rescue inhaler before she ran.

That can be trickier than it sounds because track meets aren't always on time when it comes to my daughter's race. That makes it hard for her to time her inhaler (20 minutes before her race). Using her rescue inhaler 20 minutes before she runs allows time for her airways to open up, but also allows her heart rate to slow back down.

**Please talk to your doctor and see what is right for YOUR body. Pre-medicating isn't meant for everyone**

Is it asthma?

So, we were both ready for her to run. She was warmed up and pre-medicated, and I had my phone ready to record. As she neared the finish line, she didn't look right. I thought she would feel better after she cooled down, but my Mom Antenna went up and I knew something was wrong.

I 'embarrassed her' by leaving the stands and finding her team on the grass. She said, "Mom - I started to blackout just before the finish line."

Huh? What's that all about? She had used her rescue inhaler just as her asthma doctor told her to. What else was going on?

I called the asthma doctor and scheduled a visit. While we were there, he asked her, "When it's hard to breathe, can you feel it in your throat or your lungs?" I was confused when she said her throat. The asthma doctor said, "Ahhhhh..."

I said, "Huh?" He then told me about vocal cord dysfunction. Vocal what?

Exercise-induced vocal cord dysfunction

Simply put, it's a problem with the vocal cords. They are supposed to open when you breathe, but instead, they close -- which is why she almost passed out. He explained that it's not uncommon for female athletes to have asthma and exercise-induced vocal cord dysfunction (VCD).

So what to do? The asthma doctor said the best way to treat it was with speech therapy. That led me on a hunt to find a speech therapist who knew how to treat VCD and was covered under our insurance. It took a while, but I found one at a nearby regional hospital. I drove her to sessions and listened so I could help her at home. What?! All moms nag their kids!

I was nervous at the next track meet and closely watched her race. Then I embarrassed her (again) by checking on her after the race. She said the speech therapy technique worked and basically told me to get lost.

Message received. Mom is NOT cool. Got it. Sheesh - what happened to when they were little and they actually liked being with me? Now if I am nearby in public, it just embarrasses them. Sniff sniff.

Have your kids struggled during sports?

Has anyone else had their kids struggle to breathe during their team sports? Even after treating their asthma?

There are many things that mimic asthma, VCD is just one example of what could cause breathing problems. "Try" to get your child to talk to you about any problems they're having during sports... and good luck with that!

Have you or your child experienced exercise-induced vocal cord dysfunction? Share in the comments below!

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