Tips for Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA) affected children to help them lead normal school lives

05 Jul, 2011

Tips for Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA) affected children to help them lead normal school lives

Asthma is a long-term disease affecting a large population worldwide. Airways are the tubes that transport air to and from the lungs. An asthmatic patient has ultra sensitive airways that flare up when a particular object comes in contact with them. As soon as they react, the muscles surrounding the airways start constricting. This reduces the volume of air supply entering the lungs thus lowering the normal supply of oxygen to the body. This increases the quantity of mucus lining in the airways. This overall reaction is known as an asthmatic symptom.

Tips for Exercise Induced Asthma for children

Tips for Exercise Induced Asthma for children

Nearly 300 million people suffer from asthma worldwide, thus making it a very significant problem facing every nation. Asthma can affect anyone and even children are affected by this debilitating affliction. In the United States, the proportion of asthma in children is slightly more than 9%, which is higher than the proportion of adults which is 7%, according to the latest estimates available (2007). Asthma statistics in U.S. about prevalence of this affliction in children show a rise of 160% between the years 1980 to 1994. Although it is hereditary, the possibility of children of non-asthmatic parents contracting asthma is also found to be very high. Overall it means that children are highly susceptible to this disease. So what do we do about this? How do we help children affected by asthma?

Diagnosing asthma in children
The first thing in dealing with children suspected of asthma is to determine whether the child actually suffers from asthma. The problem is that there is no certain way of detecting asthma in children, especially those below the age of five. Even today, physicians base their diagnosis on the basis of child / parent interviews and recollections about asthma episodes. The narration of these episodes by the child / parent is usually based on their perception and hence does not always provide an accurate scientific basis of diagnosing the child. In adults, the lung function test is considered to be a standard test for detecting asthma. This cannot be used for children and thus it becomes difficult to ascertain whether children have asthma. So, currently this diagnosis is being done on the basis of symptoms.

When checking for asthma in children, physicians will look for telltale signs and symptoms like:

  • Difficulty or inability to breathe comfortably.
  • A whistling sound (wheezing) is regularly heard.
  • Nocturnal coughing.
  • The child feels as if his/her chest is being crushed from inside.

Exercise Induced Asthma
This is the type of asthma, which results when the patient exercises. Usually the patients may complain about lack of breath, bouts of coughing, wheezing sound or a feeling of chest being constricted. Although these symptoms normally occur after the patient has exercised, in some cases it may also occur while the patient is exercising. For children who have this kind of asthma, it is extremely difficult to lead a normal school life as physical activity forms a normal part of their daily life. Physical education and playtime during usual recess hours are extremely essential for a student’s all round development. Hence it is essential that everyone involved, that includes the school, parents and the child, make an all-round, conscious effort, to try and get the child involved in these activities.

Tips to reduce the impact of Exercise Induced Asthma:

  • The tutors (coaches / physical training instructors etc.) monitoring young students affected with asthma should be aware of the basic medications against Exercise Induced Asthma and where they are kept.
  • The tutors should be educated about the symptoms of asthma and how to distinguish between normal tiredness and asthma symptoms induced by exercise.
  • The tutors should discuss with the individual patient’s guardian to know the exact causes and indications of that student’s asthma attacks. This can help in prevent / safeguard his attacks.
  • Tutors should understand the kind of weather and environmental conditions that trigger asthma. Avoid the students from physical activity when:
    • External air is cold or dry (though it can be adjusted if the student is provided with external covering like a mask or scarf on their mouth.
    • Grass lawns or fields that have been recently cut or mowed down.
    • Air containing pollutants like dirt, pollen, soot, etc.
  • Tutors should ensure that the students go through warm up exercises before starting strenuous physical activities. Similarly they must carry out a cooling down exercise after completing their physical training routines.
  • The schools can also moderate their exercise routines or include sporting activities that are least likely to induce an asthma attack in students. Schools can conduct running activities for the asthma students, which are tempered like:
    • Instead of running, walking for the entire course.
    • Running for a certain distance and then completing the course by walking the rest of the way.
    • Dividing the course in alternate patches that have to be run and walked.
  • Schools should understand the degree of impact every sport has on an asthma student. For e.g. diving, swimming, water polo are the least likely causes of attacks or have the least likelihood of being asthma triggers, whereas individual sports like tennis, badminton and team sports like football, basketball, etc. are more likely to induce an attack. Sports like wrestling, golf, gymnastics, etc. have moderate chances of causing an attack and can be played by students under monitored conditions.
  • Medications can help the student control the possibility of attacks. Short-acting and long-acting inhaled beta-agonists respectively work over short term and long term. Depending on the type and intensity of the sport, longevity of the sessions, etc. children can work out the drugs with their physicians that are best suited for their workouts.

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