By the numbers
Nearly 5 million children in this country suffer from asthma. Without immediate treatment to keep a child's airways from constricting, asthma can be fatal. Even if only mildly asthmatic, a child can suffer a fatal asthma attack playing sports. A report in the February 2004 issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that:
- 61 confirmed asthma deaths occurred during the 7 1/2 year study period;
- White males between ages 10 and 20 were most at risk;
- Deaths of whites outnumbered deaths of African-Americans by almost 2 to 1;
- Twice as many males died as females; and
- Basketball and track accounted for more asthma deaths than any other sport, but fatalities also occurred in football, swimming, and cheerleading (asthmatics playing any aerobic sport are at risk).
Despite the risks, asthma shouldn't keep your child out of sports. With proper precautions, they can play, as long as parents follow these safety tips:
- Make sure your child - or his coach - has his rescue inhaler at all times;
- Make sure your child's asthma is stable. If he is up during the night coughing and wheezing, it is probably not a good idea for him to play sports the next day;
- If your child needs his rescue medication before a game and once during the game, that's okay. If he needs to use it a third time, do not allow him to continue to play.
- Do not let your child play on fields that are less than about 1000 feet from a highway. Vehicular air pollutants are a serious danger for children playing sports.