School Band: Does it Help or Hurt Asthma?

I do not know if all schools require this, but in my state, they require students take a band or orchestra class starting in junior high.

My 3 kids all chose different instruments. My oldest son wanted to play clarinet and saxophone, and my daughter also wanted to play clarinet. My middle son had no idea what to play – but thought the French horn had a cool sound.

One thing we did not think about was that you need good lung strength to play these instruments. Hmmm. And that can be a problem when you have asthma.

Most of the time, asthma can be well controlled, and you can do anything you want.

Severe asthma causing problems

But what happens when your lungs are acting up because of asthma? When you have an asthma attack, are recovering from pneumonia, or are in the hospital with asthma? That happened quite a bit to Middle Son.

I started to think that he should had picked a string instrument.

Luckily, he had a very understanding band leader! His teacher would have him follow along during band practice, and just press the keys without actually blowing into his French horn.

My kids all had allergy shots and frequent visit to the asthma doctor to adjust their controller inhalers. We also changed many things in our home to make it allergy and asthma friendly. No matter what we did, it was very hard to keep Middle Son’s asthma stable.

Middle Son started taking the first biologic that came out on the market back in 2004. But it was still difficult to control his asthma. And he missed a LOT of school days (and band practice).

I could tell how sick he was by listening to him cough, wheeze, and have a drop in his peak flow meter. I know that peak flow meters really depend on how much effort you put into blowing. But, I could literally HEAR that my son was struggling with his asthma because his voice would sound higher and tighter, and his peak flow would drop by 100 points.

Band instruments helping my oldest son's asthma

On the other hand, Oldest Son grew tired of the clarinet and saxophone and decided to play bagpipes. His asthma has always been mild, and he rarely uses his Albuterol inhaler. Lucky guy!

He has played bagpipes for almost 15 years now, and his pipes have kept his lungs very strong. In fact, I could not believe how high his peak flow meter was. My personal best is only 500, but Oldest Son’s peak flow is 700! Not kidding!

He practices his bagpipes several times a week at the local cemetery. He lives in an apartment complex and does not want everyone to hate him, so he practices at the cemetery. No one will bother him there, or think twice about hearing bagpipes being played.

It seems like his bagpipes have helped him have a large lung capacity.

School band and asthma

When it comes time for kids to choose a musical instrument, and they have asthma, it may help to have a long talk with the band or orchestra leader. I mentioned that my son's band leader was very understanding. But, others might not be.

Has anyone else had a tough time with their child trying to play a musical instrument with asthma? Was it better for them to play a string instrument or a brass instrument?

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