Exercise may trigger asthma in kids

May 19, 2010 3:25:56 PM PDT
We might all think of asthma as constricted air passages and difficulty breathing, resulting from allergies to pollen, dust, and common cold infections. But there's another trigger that many kids with asthma learn about through experience, exercise. Gym classes at schools like P.S. 11 in Queens keep kids moving and fit. However, for 10-year-old Muntaqim Khan, exercising made him sick.

"I was playing basketball and suddenly, my chest was hurting and my heart was beating. So, I said I think something's wrong and I stopped playing," said Muntaqim.

Muntaqim was eventually diagnosed with asthma brought on by exercise. It can strike about half of kids who have asthma. Colder air makes it worse, and breathing in colder air might be the exercise asthma trigger.

"Normally, we breathe through nose which brings moister and warmer air in. With exercise, you breathe through your mouth which is colder air and drier air," said Stewart Coddington, the staff nurse at P.S. 11.

A child with exercise asthma is often mistaken for being just out of shape. There are symptoms that can tipoff that the problem is more serious. The symptoms include feeling out of breath after exercise, a persistent cough after playing, and not being able to run more than a few minutes.

Children who exhibit these symptoms after working out can start with milder forms of exercise like walking, swimming or biking. They can gradually move on to playing baseball, basketball and soccer.

Muntaqim now uses an asthma inhaler before he plays ball. It makes him equal to any other kid on the playground.