You can play sports with asthma

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BEGINNING of the year 2014, greetings to all the readers supporting this column and the paper in general.

This is the first term in our schools and it can easily be labelled the athletics term. It is expected that all schoolchildren participate in track and field athletics during the term.

beckham-asthma
There are many positive role models who have achieved great things while also having asthma, such as David Beckham seen here taking a pull from his inhaler

This brings back memories, I do have mixed memories about my school days, for up to the age of 13 this was the worst time of my life at school.

Being asthmatic, I had grown up in an environment that had made me believe and proven that I must not engage in physically demanding activities, but later in life medical doctors told me something contrary to that. I remember I had gone for a routine check-up and collection of drugs at Luveve clinic.

This woman doctor who examined me told me something that life has testified, it was the fact that I could live a normal life as long as I used exercise to manage the asthma.

She told me how and what to do, she even prescribed some exercises for me. Since that day, as long as I keep fit the worst asthma attack I get is a cough and not whizzing chest. I make sure that I keep a certain level of fitness especially during the winter time.

I fall back to these personal experiences to advise the thousands and millions of people out there that avoid exercise on the excuse that they are asthmatic.

Asthma is actually a reason why one must exercise and maintain a certain level of fitness. The most critical thing is know what, how and when to carry out the exercise.

This not to say all is well and easy if and when you exercise, there is what is referred to as exercise-induced asthma (EIA), a form of asthma that is triggered by physical activity.

Asthma causes inflammation and sensitivity of the small airways of the lungs. When triggered by exercise or other environmental substances, the lung’s airways can spasm or constrict.

People with EIA typically experience asthma symptoms only when they exercise. EIA is more common when the weather is cold and dry, or the level of pollution or allergens in the air is high.

It is also more common in those with poor physical conditioning or respiratory infections.

Symptoms of EIA vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, fatigue and decreased athletic performance.

EIA is best managed when a patient and their doctor work together to identify, eliminate and control triggers.

Choose the most effective preventative and maintenance medications, and have an asthma emergency plan. Exercise-induced asthma is often treated with the same medications used for a standard asthma diagnosis.

The most common medications prescribed for EIA include short-acting inhaled bronchodilators that are used prior to exercise in order to relax and open up the airway.

Other medications your doctor may prescribe include longer acting bronchodilators, mast cell stabilisers and leukotriene modifiers.

If you have asthma symptoms during exercise, it’s important to see a doctor and get a complete physical evaluation before taking any medications.

To manage EIA, it’s important to know what triggers your asthma symptoms.

For example, if your symptoms occur most often during strenuous activity in cold, dry air, you may need to exercise indoors during the winter or wear a scarf or face mask when you exercise outside.

Other things you may need to do include adjusting your routine during high pollution and high allergen days, or stop exercising when you feel tired, or have a cold or other illness.

The golden rule is start slow, develop high levels of aerobic endurance, when the respiratory pumps and pipes are strong you list likely to be short of breath, even during exercise.

Improved physical conditioning has been shown to decrease the incidence of asthma attacks.

For this reason, those with asthma are encouraged to continue exercising. Another key to minimising symptoms of EIA during sports are to be sure to perform a thorough warm-up before workouts.

Ten minutes of gradually increasing exercise is the minimum someone with asthma should do before working out intensely. If an asthma attack does occur, it’s important to act quickly to stop the episode.

Asthma attacks can occur very suddenly and dramatically and can also subside quickly when the trigger is either removed or medication is administered.

Here are the steps to take to treat an asthma attack: Stop all activity and try to stay calm, get away from or remove any obvious triggers (smoke, dust, cold temperatures), if you have prescription medication, take it, try to slow or control any erratic breathing and if the symptoms continue, get medical attention quickly.

Exercise-induced asthma doesn’t have to keep you from physical activity. In fact, exercise is an important part of your treatment plan.

Many successful athletes have exercise-induced asthma that they control with a combination of medication and environmental control.

You too can remain healthy and physically fit with proper education and use of medication for your asthma.

 Those interested in reading more about this topic may surf the following link: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/lung/asthma/phy_asth.pdf

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