Differences in Chronic Asthma and Exercise-Induced Asthma in Children

According to the AAFA (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America), children are the most affected age group with asthma.

On average, one out of 10 school-aged children suffers from asthma. Having asthma forces you to take precautions when completing specific tasks or participating in activities. For kids, this requires parents to always be mindful of the activities their kids participate in. Any kind of heavy exertion can lead to an attack.

Chronic asthma occurs as a result of ongoing inflammation in the airways of the lungs. There are certain triggers for chronic asthma that cause symptoms to come about. Some of those triggers include:

  • Allergens from dust and animal fur
  • Colds and other respiratory infections
  • Pollen
  • Air pollution

Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is triggered when your child performs certain activities such as exercising or playing sports. EIA happens when cooling, warming, or drying air tightens your airways. The triggers for EIA are minimal compared to chronic asthma, mainly changes in air temperature and strenuous exercising.

Symptoms of EIA include:

  • Coughing
  • Cramps
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath

The symptoms of EIA usually begin at the start of the workout around 20 minutes in or 10 minutes after a workout. Although symptoms often appear while kids are being active, sometimes they can appear only after the activity has stopped. Children are more likely to suffer from exercise-induced asthma than adults because they play harder and more frequently than adults. Eighty to 90 percent of asthma patients suffer from EIA. However, it only affects three to 10 percent of people with no history of respiratory problems.

Certain exercises trigger EIA more than others. Running, playing basketball, and soccer are more likely to trigger asthma symptoms than activities such as weightlifting or moderate-paced walking.

Tips to help your kids manage exercise-induced asthma:

  • Have your child take breaks during exercises. After exercising a cool-down period is necessary to slow down the change of air temperature.
  • Warming up with a few small exercises can prove beneficial to managing EIA.
  • Taking quick relief medicine can prevent EIA symptoms before exercising.
  • If your child is exercising in the cold, wearing a scarf will warm their face, which can help prevent symptoms.

Tips to help manage chronic asthma:

  • Avoid the asthma triggers listed above.
  • Take prescribed medicines correctly and on time. Consult with your doctor to set a plan.
  • Schedule regular checkups for your asthma.

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Photo credit: Michael Havens

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