Asthma is a chronic pulmonary disorder, frequently allergic in nature, and characterized by paroxysms of dyspnea, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and bronchospasm. Asthmatic attacks may be minor and short in duration with little discomfort, or very severe and of long duration, producing the characteristic picture of intractability. During symptomatic periods, it is usually possible to demonstrate change in certain aspects of pulmonary function, notably expiratory flow rate and forced expiratory volume. With mild symptoms or between the episodes of severe asthma, the individual may be at little or no disadvantage in most activities. Continuous exercise for five to eight minutes in cold air often causes dyspnea, wheezing, and bronchospasm (exercise-induced asthma) in an asymptomatic individual who may or may not have a history of having had asthma or hay fever. When symptoms of pulmonary distress become severe or prolonged, they may lead to interruption of the child's daily routine, including school attendance. Occasionally, such children may become home or hospital bound for periods of time.
Between the two extremes of no symptoms and severe asthma, there is a spectrum of respiratory or pulmonary disability—the nature and severity of which require that each child receive individual consideration and evaluation in the matter of his daily activity. Control of asthma in children has significantly improved during the past decade. However, asthma may contribute to inefficiency in schoolwork because of associated chronic fatigue, irritability, decreased attention span, and emotional factors.
Physical activities are useful to asthmatic children. The majority of asthmatic children can participate in physical activities at school and in sports with minimal difficulty, provided the asthma is under satisfactory control.
- Copyright © 1984 by the American Academy of Pediatrics