Having Asthma as an Athlete


Asthma occurs when there is an obstruction of the bronchial tubes caused by mucus in the airways, muscle spasm, and swelling that cause three key symptoms: a cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing, says Dr. Stanley P. Galant, CHOC asthma, allergy and immunology specialist. Kids with asthma may experience these symptoms particularly during or after exercise. However, children with asthma who are well managed usually have very little difficulty with exercise.

Asthma can also be triggered by an allergen, an environmental irritant such as tobacco smoke, and by the common cold. “A child should be checked for asthma if he or she regularly experiences these symptoms, particularly with a family history of asthma,” says Dr. Galant.


Just because your child has asthma does not mean he or she can’t participate in sports or physical activities, says Dr. Galant. In fact, exercise and physical fitness may be very important for lung development, might prevent asthma from occurring, and could improve asthma status in those who have it. During exercise you have to take a deep breath and this can open your airways,” says Dr. Galant.


Children participating in sports can take some steps to minimize or avoid asthma trouble. Dr. Galant says kids should warm up first with short exercises such as short sprints. Young athletes with asthma also could use an inhaler, a “rescue medication” such as albuterol, about 15 minutes before exercising or playing sports to help prevent symptoms caused by physical activity, he says, adding that this will help for about 2-4 hours. Young athletes should also have their “rescue medication” on hand too in case they need it. Dr. Galant noted that swimming is a great sport for these children because of the moist environment. Running in dry, cold air is not as ideal. To show that children with asthma can compete on the athletic field we sponsor an Olympic type event each spring called the Air Power Games. If interested please call CHOC Breathmobile at 714-509-7571.

Dr. Galant - CHOC Asthma, Allergy and Immunology Specialist

Dr. Stanley P. Galant is the medical director of CHOC Breathmobile, CHOC’s mobile asthma treatment van. He is also a clinical professor of pediatrics at UC Irvine. Dr. Galant completed pediatric residencies at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital and at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center. He had a fellowship in allergy/immunology at UCSF and was a medical researcher with the UCSF Medical Center’s pediatric radiology department and Cardiovascular Research Institute. The Hospital Association of Southern California named Dr. Galant a 2007 “Hospital Hero” for bringing the Breathmobile to Orange County.
Chapter 4 AAP awarded Dr. Galant, Career Achievement of the Year Award in June 2011.

Dr. Galant’s philosophy of care for the CHOC Breathmobile program: “Our program is unique and provides access to preventive asthma care in the community. To treat our asthmatic children satisfactorily and manage a chronic disease like asthma, we build trust and bond with our patients.”

University of California Medical School, San Francisco



Dr. Stanley Galant

Making Sense of Asthma Medication

The number of children with asthma continues to rise, but the evolution of asthma medication means most attacks can now be prevented before they start.

While rescue medication is still important, the standard practice today is to prescribe inhaled corticosteroids, usually taken once or twice daily. These preventive controller medications reduce the swelling inside the airways, minimizing attacks over time.

Young girl getting physical exam

Allowing Your Child to Play Sports with Asthma

Smiling soccer player with chin resting on ball

Your 7-year-old son loves baseball and can’t wait to join the local Little League team. Your daughter is a big soccer fan and all her fourth-grade friends play soccer after school, so she wants to play soccer also. Both kids have asthma. What to do?

Just because your children have asthma does not mean they can’t participate in any sports or physical activities, says Dr. Stanley Galant, an asthma specialist and medical director of CHOC Breathmobile.

Knowledge is the best medicine. Learn more about your child's health in these features from the experts at CHOC.

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