Allercy and Asthma Health
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The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Dad, the Coach Won’t Let Me Play!

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by Kitty Hernlen, MBA, RRT

Eight-year-old Jayden loves soccer and is a pretty good forward. Last year on the Dragons he scored five goals and received a sticker for most valuable player three times. But this year he’s moved up to the Comets and his coach has never kept him in the game for more than a few moments at a time. When the team comes off the field for a time out, the coach’s first words to Jayden are, “You feeling okay, buddy?” His parents suspect his asthma is the issue but are unsure how to talk with the coach.

Parents of children with asthma often find themselves faced with issues such as this. Many coaches are unaware of how asthma works and are afraid a child with asthma could have an attack and possibly die. The first step to addressing this problem is to set up a meeting between yourself, your child, and the coach. The best time to do this may not be at the game but another time when the coach is not distracted by other children or parents.

Let your child’s coach know that your child’s asthma is well controlled and he should be able to play sports just like any other child. Let the coach know that his physician has given permission for the child to play sports. You may even need to bring a note from your child’s physician for the coach. If your child has limitations, then you should talk about what your child can and cannot do.

There are many misconceptions about asthma symptoms. Describing your child’s symptoms can help the coach be more aware of what an asthma attack looks like for your child. The same is true for triggers. Not all children have the same triggers, so sharing your child’s triggers will allow the coach to remove or minimize exposure to them. For instance, if cold weather triggers your child’s asthma, the coach will know to be more alert for symptoms when the temperature drops.

It is also important that the child’s quick-reliever medication be available during games and practices. Either the parent or the child should have a full inhaler ready, just in case. Tell the coach who is responsible for holding your child’s medication. You may even want your child to demonstrate how to use the inhaler or even teach the coach how to use it yourself. If the child has exercise-induced asthma, stress to the coach the importance of having her take the medication 15 minutes before exercise and warming up before the game.

Most important, it is vital that you give the coach your child’s asthma action plan and discuss what to do in case there is an asthma attack. Discussing this ahead of time can help ease some of the fear about asthma. Coaches can go to the following websites to learn more about asthma and sports. This WebMD page has lots of great information, as does this site from the Maine Division of Population Health.

Being open and answering any questions from the coach should get your child back in the game.

Kitty Hernlen is a Registered Respiratory Therapist and a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care from Augusta, GA, where she serves as an associate professor and director of admissions in the department of clinical and environmental health sciences at Georgia Regents University.
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