Kristen Stryker never thought she had asthma, she just assumed she was just tired during basketball, until she collapsed one day during practice. Kristen, a sophomore at Franklin Monroe High School, is a starter for junior varsity basketball and is also a pitcher for varsity softball. But two years ago, she noticed she was short of breath during practice.
“It felt like I just couldn’t get enough air in my lungs,” Kristen says. “I thought I was just tired, so my coach told me to step outside and cool down,” she shares. “When I walked outside into the cold air, I lost consciousness and collapsed.”
Kristen’s mother, Kathy, arrived at the high school just as the ambulance was pulling away. “In the ambulance, I couldn’t get her to respond to me,” Kathy says. “She looked right at me with tears running down her face. I have never felt so helpless and heartbroken because she looked so scared and I knew she was in pain.”
At Wayne Hospital where Kristen was transported after she collapsed, the Stryker family was initially told Kristen had acid reflux, which caused a panic attack. “Kristen never complained about acid reflux, which I thought was very odd,” Kathy shares. “When she was released from the hospital, she still didn’t feel ‘right.’ She couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs without her chest hurting, so I took her the next day to our family doctor, Donald Pelsor, MD, who suspected she may have asthma and referred us to the pulmonary team at Dayton Children’s for further testing.”
According to Robert Fink, MD, pulmonologist at Dayton Children’s, children that have respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) before their first birthday have an increased risk of developing asthma later in life. When Kristen was 5-months-old, she spent a week at Dayton Children’s with RSV, putting her at risk for developing asthma.
“The majority of adolescents, including Kristen, simply have asthma that’s triggered or aggravated by sports or exercise, which is why it’s referred to ‘sports-induced asthma,’” explains Dr. Fink.
“Swimming in warm water causes the fewest symptoms, running in the cold air causes the most symptoms. Pediatric asthmatics usually have more frequent, severe attacks requiring emergency room and hospital care.”
According to Dr. Fink, sports-induced asthma can have mild or severe symptoms, which include wheezing, chest tightness and pain, and a persistent cough, often in the middle of the night.
Dr. Fink put Kristen on treatment plan, including a daily inhaler twice a day and an inhaler prior to exercise. “The treatment program for every asthma patient is individualized with the goal to control the asthma with the fewest side effects possible.”
Sports-induced asthma will be with Kristen for the rest of her life, Dr. Fink explains and it’s not a condition that adolescents outgrow. “Adolescents with asthma can play competitive sports as well as anyone without asthma if their asthma is well managed by medication, periodic assessment and a healthy lifestyle.”
According to Kathy, having asthma hasn’t slowed Kristen down. “I’m so grateful to Dr. Fink for helping Kristen take control of her asthma. Playing competitive sports is a huge part of Kristen’s life, so having her asthma well under control is a big part of her winning in sports.”
Quick tips for managing sports-induced asthma
Sports-induced asthma doesn’t have to take kids out of the game. Sports-induced asthmaoccurs during aerobic exercising, such as running, playing football, basketball, soccer or other activities.
Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath, which are signs of an asthma attack. Symptoms usually worsen five to 10 minutes after stopping exercise – and can be "mild to severe."
Tips for kids and teens with sports-induced asthma:
· Plan ahead.Many children and adolescents benefit from using a short-acting bronchodilator (rescue) inhaler 15 minutes before exercise.
· Try to avoid triggers:Exercising in air with high pollen and pollutant levels, smoke and strong fumes can cause an asthma attack (So can stress, respiratory problems and even the common cold).
· Steer clear from cold. If the temperature is very cold, use a scarf to warm the air that’s breathed in.
· Warm up. Do warm-up exercises for10-15 minutes before exercising.
· Take a break. Have breaks often, especially if the air outside is poor quality.
· Breathe through your nose.Children should practice breathing in and out of their nose during high-intensity exercise.Breathing in through the nose warms, moistens and cleans the air.
· Guzzle often.Drink plenty of fluids. Drink at least eight ounces (one cup) of water prior to exercise and eight ounces or one cup of water for every 30 minutes of prolonged exercise.
· When to say stop.Stop exercising if asthma symptoms begin and use a rescue inhaler as directed by your doctor.
·Take it down a notch when the game is over.It's important to do cool down exercises and not stop exercising abruptly, which can prevent an asthma attack.
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