How to Choose a Sport for a Child With Asthma

Sports-playing boy using asthma inhaler
Getty Images/Gary Ombler/Dorling Kindersley

Robust exercise, including running, jumping, kicking, and team sports that encourage cooperation and coordination are a fun part of growing up. Athletics also promote a child's overall health and can improve their social skills.

Children who have asthma don't have to steer clear of sports or be sidelined. Parents will often want to pinpoint the best sports for youngsters with the condition.

It's true that some sports are better than others for kids with asthma. Here's what parents should know before choosing sporting activities for kids who have asthma.

Boost a Child's Athletic Confidence in Preschool

Children may choose the sports they want to play as early as preschool. The sport they pick may occupy them through high school and beyond. Other youngsters may try many sports before finding one or two they feel truly passionate about.

Parents of children with health conditions such as asthma or allergies can boost kids' self-confidence by steering them to the sports that make them feel their best.

If your child has a health condition and expresses an interest in sports, your first step should be visiting a pediatrician.

Having a candid talk about your child's overall health is important, and there may be treatment options that could expand your child's choice of activities. On the other hand, a doctor's visit may also prevent a parent or child from developing unrealistic expectations about their athletic participation.

The Causes of Exercise-Induced Asthma Attacks

Both parents and children should recognize the common triggers of exercise-induced asthma attacks and take appropriate precautions. 

Sports played in cold environments such as ice skating, ice hockey, snow skiing, and snowboarding, can be hard for asthma sufferers. Activities performed in the cold air are taxing on the lungs and on the body.

Vigorous sports or those that take place over long periods of time, such as soccer, high-skill gymnastics or tumbling, track and field, and basketball tend to be more difficult for asthmatic children to endure. Even swimming, which was long regarded as safe for those with asthma, should be approached with caution and carefully monitored.

Sports like football that tend to last for an extended amount of time and can involve grueling playing conditions also tend to harder for children who have asthma.

Asthma-Friendly Sports

There are a number of sports that are suitable for kids with asthma and may offer them many benefits. Baseball or softball, golf, martial arts, fencing, yoga, and volleyball are just a few examples.

If your child has their heart set on a particular sport that isn't on the list, don't immediately rule it out. Discuss the options with your child's pediatrician before saying no.

You might also consider looking for leagues that have a less intensive play. When your child is on the field or the court, watch them closely to ensure the sport does not trigger asthma symptoms.

Organized sports aren't the only triggers of asthma attacks. Relay races, kickball matches during gym class or recess, and general environmental conditions can potentially trigger an asthma attack.

Events that take place during the school day may also involve physical activities to help minimize early childhood obesity. You'll want to discuss any activities your child will take part in and make sure your child, school personnel, or daycare staff know how to respond to an asthma attack.

If your child uses an inhaler, make sure that the adults in charge of the sporting event have the inhaler on-site in case an asthma attack is triggered.

Finally, request to be notified about asthma attacks immediately—even if it was only a minor one. Keeping track of the conditions that trigger your child's asthma attacks can help you make better decisions about your child's physical activities.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Eime RM, Young JA, Harvey JT, Charity MJ, Payne WR. A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents: informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2013;10:98. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-98

  2. Hughes D. Childhood asthma and exercise. Paediatr Child Health. 2014;19(9):467-8. doi:10.1093/pch/19.9.467

  3. Del giacco SR, Firinu D, Bjermer L, Carlsen KH. Exercise and asthma: an overview. Eur Clin Respir J. 2015;2:27984. doi:10.3402/ecrj.v2.27984

  4. TeensHealth. Can People With Asthma Play Sports?. September 2017.

  5. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (Asthma). Updated October 2015.

  6. Pandita A, Sharma D, Pandita D, Pawar S, Tariq M, Kaul A. Childhood obesity: prevention is better than cure. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2016;9:83-9. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S90783

  7. Gupta A, Bhat G, Pianosi P. What is New in the Management of Childhood Asthma?. Indian J Pediatr. 2018;85(9):773-781. doi:10.1007/s12098-018-2705-1