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What is asthma?
Asthma is a disease that can make it harder for your child to breathe by causing the tubes that bring air in and out of the lungs to narrow.
Is there a connection between asthma and weight?
Yes, there can be a connection between asthma and weight. In some cases, extra weight can make asthma symptoms worse and harder to manage. Asthma can then make it harder to keep a healthy weight because exercise or other physical activities can make certain asthma symptoms worse, like trouble breathing or coughing.
Is it safe for my child to be active if they have asthma?
Yes. Being active is very important for your child’s physical and mental health. If your child receives the right asthma treatment, they can take part in their favorite activities.
Asthma should not limit what your child can and cannot do. With the help of your child’s care team, you can find ways for your child to take part in their favorite physical activities.
Will exercising or playing outdoors make my child sick?
No. Children do not catch colds by being outside in cold weather. They catch colds from other people who are sick. This is more likely to happen indoors than outdoors. In fact, exercising or playing outdoors has many benefits for your child. This includes improving overall health, feeling happier and less stressed and concentrating better on schoolwork.
Sometimes, cold air outside can trigger asthma symptoms. Ask the care team for tips on how to manage your child’s asthma symptoms when the weather gets colder.
Can my child's asthma treatment cause weight gain?
Weight gain can be a side effect of some asthma medications, but it depends on the type of medication and how your child takes it. Weight gain is rare if children take their medications properly and at the correct dose.
How can I improve my child's health?
- Set a good example for your child. You can do this by making healthy food and drink choices and by being active yourself. Kids learn best by watching adults around them.
- Support and encourage your child to take care of themselves. Help them focus on the health benefits of their choices instead of focusing on their weight.
- Do not criticize your child for their weight. People who are overweight are more likely to have low self-esteem (feel badly about themselves). This can make it harder for them to stay healthy.
Diet and nutrition
- Choose fresh, healthy foods whenever possible. Fast food, takeout, restaurant meals and packaged foods are usually full of extra calories, fat, sugar and salt that are not good for your child’s health.
- Talk with your child about healthy food and drink choices. With so many health claims on food labels, it can be hard to know what is healthy and what is not. If you are not sure, your child’s health care team can help with this.
- Reward your child in ways that do not involve food. Instead of giving your child sweets or junk food as a treat, consider giving them the healthier (and more meaningful) gift of a smile, hug or time together. It is even better if you do something active with that time!
- Do not drink soda, sweetened drinks and fruit juice (even 100% juice and drinks with sugar substitutes). Each of these drinks are strongly linked to weight gain. Drink water to stay hydrated and low-fat milk for vitamin D and calcium.
Sleep and physical activity
- Make sure your child gets enough physical activity and sleep every day. Children need at least one hour of physical activity every day. You can break this time up into smaller chunks if that is easier.
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep every night. Depending on their age, children need at least 8-11 hours of sleep every night.
- Put away devices with screens an hour before bedtime to help your child fall asleep.
What is an asthma flare?
An asthma flare is when a person’s asthma symptoms worsen and make it hard for the person to breathe. Asthma attacks rarely happen without any warning – usually there are signs (such as cough or shortness of breath) warning a person that their asthma is acting up.
If you notice these signs that your child’s asthma is acting up, follow the steps in their Asthma Action Plan. If your child does not have an Asthma Action Plan, ask their health care provider to create one with you.
Most asthma attacks can be prevented by consistent and correct use of controller medications. If you have any questions about your child’s controller medications, talk with your child’s health care provider.
About the MGH Inspired Health Program
The MGH Inspired Health Program is a unique program that helps children with asthma achieve better overall health.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the Inspired Health Program at 617-726-8707.
Rev. 7/2018. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.