The entire month of May is Asthma Awareness Month, aimed at controlling the chronic illness through effective management and the development of Asthma Action Plans. Asthma and other respiratory disorders are common problems among children and a potential obstacle to the sometimes-strenuous nature of physical activity.
May is an ideal time to begin thinking about your child’s physical activity as the weather begins to warm up, allowing for more outdoor sports and recreational fun. Kids will be kids regardless of their respective physical abilities and one thing every single child thoroughly enjoys is engaging in play.
So, in honour of Asthma Awareness Month, we’ve come up with some asthma-friendly outdoor activities and helpful tips that you should try out with your child and their friends at their next play date. Keep in mind that these activities are suggestions that can be tailored to your child’s individual likes and dislikes. If a particular game doesn’t seem to be working, find out the reason why by communicating with your child and giving them primary control over their own fun.
Aquatic activities are great for children with asthma because they usually don’t require continuous exertion, allowing your child to take a break and drink fluids when they’re feeling tired. From water polo to marco polo, and everything in between, one of the most appealing attributes of swimming is the wide range of activities for your child to choose from. An additional bonus of swimming with your child in a supervised or public pool is the added security of having a trained lifeguard ensuring that you have a fun (and most importantly safe) experience.
A great way to develop strength and increase muscle flexibility, cycling is one of those quintessential warm weather sports. Biking is a great way of keeping your child active, safe, and independent. While your child is able to independently determine their own pace and cycling route in relation to their asthma, as a parent, you are able to maximize their safety through training wheels, helmets, and other safety equipment.
Summertime Treats as Triggers
While having fun and keeping active should be the main goals of outdoor play, parents of children prone to asthma attacks should be especially aware of the sweet and cold triggers which usually accompany summertime fun.
A notable rise in body temperature is a natural result of physical activity. When your asthma-prone child has a frozen treat after an extended period of physical exertion, the sudden intake of a cold food product can increase the potential for constriction in their airways. Dairy products are believed by many to worsen asthma symptoms by promoting mucous formation, consequently restricting the flow of oxygen through the airways and making it more difficult to breathe. Non-dairy alternatives such as fruit-based smoothies or dried fruit snacks, combined with simple moderation and portion control are great first steps to ensuring that your day of fun outside does not inadvertently turn into an asthma episode.
Warm Weather: The Double-Edged Sword
Although warmer temperatures are great for promoting a more active outdoor lifestyle, parents and children must remain aware of the dangers of increased humidity which often accompany Spring and Summer weather. When it is both hot and humid outside, in combination with an increase in physical exertion, oxygen intake levels are significantly reduced. For children dealing with asthma, this reduction in oxygen intake can lead to breathing problems and trigger an asthma attack.
In order to keep this threat to an absolute minimum, ensure that your child is appropriately hydrated and that they rest to avoid exhaustion. Playing in shadier areas outside and taking advantage of protective clothing such as hats will also aid in preventing unmanageable increases in body temperature. When your child is having fun outside, they are more willing to incorporate physical activity into their lifestyle.
So if these tips and suggestions for incorporating outdoor activity into your child’s life sound like they might work for you and your child, give them a try and let us know how it all works out by leaving a reply in the comments section below.
Public Health Agency of Canada – Asthma Management
Asthma Society of Canada
The National Lung Health Framework