Talk with D-Rok
A few months ago one of my high school classmates passed away. The most tragic part of the ordeal was that her passing was the result of an asthmatic attack. It was a reminder for all of those connected to her of the reality of the dangers of asthma.
I spoke with M. Maitland DeLand, MD, author of the new book, The Great Katie Kate Offers Answers About Asthma, about young athletes and asthma.
DeLand has been practicing medicine for over 30 years in the Lafayette, La area. She works primarily with children and women who have cancer. She is also a mother that has had her own children diagnosed with cancer, diabetes and asthma.
According to DeLand, asthma is a contraction of the bronchial tubes inside the lungs that allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to be exchanged. DeLand echoed the sentiment that the danger of asthma is very real.
“I think sometimes parents don’t take what they hear or see in their children seriously enough. They may think it’s just a cold or congestion. If your child is consistently coughing at night, seems lethargic or has difficulty breathing, they need to be tested for asthma,” DeLand said. She says other possible signs include tightness of the chest, wheezing and abdominal breathing.
DeLand explained how the bronchial trees of middle and high school students are not yet fully developed and because of that asthma can have a more devastating effect on their lungs than asthma would on an adult. She says that accurate diagnosis is important along with having an “action plan.”
DeLand said it is imperative to create an action plan along with the child’s physician for what to do when the child experiences asthmatic symptoms and how to prevent them in the first place. Asthmatic symptoms are brought on in children by “triggers” which can include allergies and of course, physical exertion. The kind of physical exertion that playing sports requires.
DeLand is adamant, however, that having asthma does not have to and should not disqualify a young person from participating in athletics.
“Just as much as I’ve seen parents that are hesitant to see if their child is asthmatic, I’ve seen parents that are reluctant to let their child be an athlete once he/she is diagnosed out of fear. As long as the action plan is in place, the coaches and schools are aware of it and the plan is sufficient to address the symptoms, there is no reason why a boy or girl should not be able to play sports to her/his full potential,” DeLand commented.
In her experience, most action plans created with a physician involve daily use of a long – acting bronchodilator in either a powder or pill form along with a rapid – acting inhaler for special activity. According to DeLand, the rapid – acting inhaler should be used at least 10 minutes prior to participating in sports to prevent symptoms that may be triggered by the exercise.
DeLand also says that hydration is important for young athletes for many reasons and preventing asthmatic symptoms is just another reason. The body uses water to lubricate the bronchial tubes to keep them open and if sufficient water is not available, the tubes can dry out and the chances for asthmatic symptoms increase.
Once the parent(s) and physician are comfortable with the action plan, it should be shared with all parties at the school that will be supervising the child, whether in an athletic context or not. The action plan being in place and regular visits with the child’s physician and monitoring of the child’s symptoms should allow the child to play sports to her/his optimal level.
DeLand’s book is available from Greenleaf Publishing through Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both hardcover and electronic forms.