Teaching kids to swim is a life skill, but if a child suffers from asthma, a parent might wonder if swimming’s demands on the respiratory system might be too difficult and possibly even dangerous?
For several reasons, swimming is one of the best exercises there is for asthmatic children, says Ashley Jerath Tatum, M.D., with Northwest Asthma and Allergy Center.
- The warm, humid air at the surface of the water is better for swimmers’ lung capacity
- Swimming develops upper body muscles, chest and intercostal muscles between the ribs so when a child takes deep breaths in and out, they are able to expand the chest and push out air more efficiently
- Any amount of swimming is helpful – the breathing techniques used in swimming are beneficial, especially for asthmatic children
Taipei Medical University’s Wang Jeng-Shing studied the effects of a six-week swimming program on 30 asthmatic children between 5 and 12 years of age, writing in a 2009 study published in the journal, Respirology:
“Not only is swimming an excellent form of exercise for children with asthma, the health benefits reaped continued to be observed for at least a year after the completion of the swimming program.”
Potential problems to watch for include the chlorine in swimming pools which can aggravate some people’s symptoms. If your child experiences any trouble signs, talk to your child’s physician. And Livestrong.com recommends that when selecting an indoor pool:
Kids love role models, and young swimmers with asthma can find one in Olympic gold medalist Peter Vanderkaay, In a Q&A for the American Lung Association, Vanderkaay offered:
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because of asthma. As long as you communicate with your doctor, you can live a normal lifestyle. Use it as a challenge to make yourself a stronger person.”