Athletes with Allergies, Asthma Can Play It Safe
As athletes of all ages take the field this summer, the most fearsome opponents for those with asthma and allergies might be triggers that can sideline even the toughest competitors.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and its allergist members say everyone can stay in the game and make sure it's fun and safe by following these tips:
- Give the coach a heads up – Alert the coach to any allergic condition, as well as what to do in case of an emergency. Provide detailed instructions on where medications are kept on the field and on how to use injectable epinephrine in case of a severe allergic reaction.
- Ensure safe snacking – Snacks are the highlight of the game for little ones – except for the child who is allergic to peanuts, milk or other common snack food allergens. Before putting together the snack-assignment schedule, poll parents on children's allergies to find out if any foods should be avoided. Food allergies can be serious, so if you suspect you or your child suffer from them, see an allergist to get tested and develop a plan.
- Beware of unexpected opponents – Bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and fire ants are some of the different critters that may hang out on or near sports fields that can pack a powerful punch if they sting or bite. Administer injectable epinephrine and call 911 in the case of a serious reaction, including hives, difficulty breathing and swelling of the tongue.
- Stock the first-aid kit – Make room in the team first aid kit for latex-free bandages and antihistamines to treat minor allergic reactions. If you know you or your child has a life-threatening allergy, make sure injectable epinephrine is with you at all times.
- Find the right sport – Sports that involve a lot of running – such as soccer, basketball and field hockey – can be tough for kids and adults with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), commonly referred to as exercise induced asthma. In addition to using your prescribed daily asthma control medications, use a short-acting, quick relief inhaler at least 20 minutes before exercise and warm up for at least 5-10 minutes before taking the field. If the amount of running is too much, consider switching to a more asthma friendly sport, such as baseball, golf or swimming. An allergist can advise you on asthma treatment options and help you manage EIB, a condition that affects up to 10 percent of the population and 80 percent to 90 percent of those with asthma. A new online journal can help you track your symptoms, create reports and share them with your doctor.
- Stop the sneezing – To help head off a mid-at-bat sneezing fit due to allergies to grass, ragweed and other pollen-producing plants, take allergy medication before the game. Wash off the pollen and keep it from spreading around the house by jumping in the shower after the game.
"Even if you have allergies and asthma, you should be able to feel good and participate in your favorite sports," said allergist Myron Zitt, M.D., past president of ACAAI. "Finding the right treatment for your allergies and asthma can help level the playing field."
To find out if asthma or allergies bother you or your child and come up with a plan to defeat them find an allergist and take a self-relief test.