Gym Class, Fall Sports, and Asthma

As I’m getting back into the swing of things for Fall, I’ve been emailing parents of the kids I coach and texting with my adult Goalball players preparing for the upcoming season. While some of you have been back in the routine for a month or more now, here in Canada, back to school season is more freshly behind us, and it’s all about getting back into the routine of the other 9-ish months of the year—and making sure if you or your child have asthma, you’re prepared for the successful return to Fall physical activities!

Getting kids back to gym class with asthma

While this may be a bit late in the game for some, it’s still worth recapping the checklist to prepare your child, their school, and their physical education teacher for managing asthma in physical education settings, indoors and out.

Physical education teachers should be aware of a child’s need to pre-medicate for physical education class, and whether or not they need to visit the nurse to do so or if they will be pre-medicating on their own. As well, physical education (and all!) teachers should receive training for how to respond to asthma symptoms, from mild to severe—at minimum, they should be trained by the child’s parents, at best as a team effort between parents and a school or public health nurse.
Gym teachers should also be aware of where a child’s inhaler can be found during class, and depending on school rules, it may be worthwhile to inquire about storing an extra inhaler in the gym, just in case.

Fall sports and asthma

Basketball and hockey programs often start in Fall, as well as the return to swimming lessons. Outdoor soccer season may be winding down... but indoor soccer season may be starting up! Different sports bring with them different triggers—outdoor allergens, or indoor air pollutants in hockey arenas, or cleaners in gyms (and not to mention unused dusty equipment!) can cause problems, especially when combined with physical activity. If allergens are a problem in the space your child participates in sports, ask your child’s doctor about using an antihistamine on practice or game days.

Similar to physical education teachers, ensure your child’s coach is aware of their asthma and is educated. Unlike phys ed teachers, most kids sports coaches are volunteers and may or may not be required to have training in first aid, and will likely receive only minimal information about a child’s medical conditions. Ensure your child’s coach knows what your child’s asthma symptoms look like (and how well your kiddo can communicate them!), where their inhaler is kept and how to assist your child in using it if needed, and ensure any waivers or forms for administration of medication are signed and on file.

And of course, water and inhalers don’t mix well (especially not dry powder ones!)—if your child is in swimming lessons or on a swim team, invest in a waterproof pouch that can be kept at the poolside to store their inhaler (and spacer if used). A bright color may help to ensure it’s easily spotted when needed (or just to find it again at the end of the session!). By the way, I tried to keep a metered dose inhaler in a ziplock bag in my pocket at a waterpark once, it didn’t work too well, so learn from my mistake on that one! Similarly, if doing winter sports (not that we’re quite there yet!), it can be important to keep inhalers close to the body so they don’t get too cold!

How do you prepare for sports and phys ed?

While I’ve been a daycare lady and am going into my sixth year coaching, parents are the experts! What are your tips for getting ready for sports and gym class for children with asthma?

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