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Kraig W. Jacobson, M.D.

Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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Ten ways to help asthmatic athletes succeed

Posted by on in Primary Care
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As the 2012 London Olympic Games take center stage around the world, all eyes will be on the many athletes set to compete. Did you know that more than 20 percent of athletes in the 1998 Olympic Winter Games had asthma? Asthma is a condition that makes a person’s airway narrow and swell, which results in difficulty breathing.

Some of the best U.S. athletes, such as heptathlete and retired Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee, have competed with asthma.

While not all of us aspire to make it to the Olympics, we hope that those of you with asthma will not be dissuaded to engage in rigorous physical activity just because of your condition.

If you are a coach, an athlete with asthma, or you are helping your asthmatic child engage in physical activity, please consider the following:

Ten ways to help asthmatic athletes succeed

  1. If you are a coach or parent, be aware of your athletes’ needs.
  2. If you have an asthmatic child, provide his or her coach with an athlete action plan and discuss symptom management.
  3. Coaches should check to see that players/athletes have the correct medications. A physician can help your athlete determine what’s appropriate.
  4. Remind your asthmatic athlete to take one to two puffs from a rescue inhaler/quick relief medication 10-15 minutes before training.
  5. Keep a rescue inhaler handy at all workouts.
  6. Ensure that athletes warm up prior to physical activity, particularly if he or she will be competing in a cooler climate.
  7. If an athlete has exercise-induced asthma – difficulty in breathing that occurs before or after engaging in exercise – have the athlete check his or her peak flow rates before warming up.
  8. Do not leave an athlete alone if he or she is suffering from common asthma symptoms (see below).
  9. Encourage your asthmatic athlete to keep his or her asthma under control by using controller/long-term medications or rescue medications.
  10. If you are an athlete with asthma, take responsibility by seeing your doctor regularly and taking your medication. And communicate any symptoms you’re having with parents and coaches.

If your athlete experiences the following symptoms, seek medical help:

  • Coughing
  • Gasping
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness, pressure or pain
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing

Take asthma seriously
In the United States 44,000 people have an asthma attack every day, and nine people die from asthma. But athletes don’t have to avoid exercise because of asthma. A physician can help athletes create an action plan that allows them to be physically active despite having asthma.
If you struggle with asthma, our allergy and asthma doctors are happy to develop a plan to keep you active; contact us.

Tagged in: Asthma Olympics

An energetic problem solver, Dr. Kraig Jacobson has spent his career treating patients and teaching about the complexities of allergy, asthma and immunology. He has practiced medicine in Eugene since 1979. The bigger the challenge, the more he enjoys his work.