Doctors' Notes

Winning With Asthma

Credit: Thinkstock

Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents and husband and wife physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via talkback@jetmag.comWe promise to keep it anonymous. 


Question:  My 12-year old was recently diagnosed with asthma and wants to play sports.  I don’t understand how to control asthma very well and I’m afraid that he will have an asthma attack while on the field.  I don’t think playing sports is a good idea.  What should I do?

This is a great question!   Just know that you are not alone in the asthma struggle your family is facing.  Asthma is thought to affect over 4 million people in our community, and many of them are children living healthy, productive, and active lives.  Having a diagnosis of asthma should not prevent a child from participating in sports.  You and your child simply have to work closely with the physician to ensure that the symptoms of asthma are controlled so he is able to participate and compete at the same level as the non-asthmatic athlete.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung condition, in which the airways sporadically can become narrow and clogged with mucus.  This can lead to bouts of wheezing, cough, shortness of breath, or chest tightness commonly known as “asthma attacks.”  The episodes are sometimes triggered by an upper respiratory infection, allergies, extreme weather, environmental allergens, or strenuous physical exercise.  There is no cure for asthma, but the symptoms can certainly be controlled through various medications and inhalers that open the airway.

Everyone’s treatment will differ based on severity of symptoms, but all asthma sufferers should have an asthma action plan.  This is a detailed management plan developed by your physician including your daily regimen and outlines step-by-step what to do when symptoms worsen.  It also explains when to call the doctor, or when to call for emergency care.  It is helpful to have for family members, school, and for any other caretakers in case of an asthma attack.  If you do not have an asthma action plan, ask your doctor for one.

There are many myths in our community about asthma that keep us from taking advantage of the proper treatment, and even causing us to delay diagnosis in many cases. Here are a few of the most common myths and the truth about asthma:

* If I have asthma, I can’t play sports because it will make it worse.  Physical activity should always be a part of a child’s regular routine, asthma or not.  Optimize the management of asthma, and there will be no problem participating in sports.

* I only need an inhaler when I’m active, that can’t really be asthma.  Not true.  Exercise-induced asthma is the type of asthma diagnosed in a person who typically has symptoms lasting up to 60 minutes after exercise.  It is a real diagnosis, requiring real treatment.  Don’t ignore signs in your child of excessive coughing, shortness of breath or wheezing after physical activity.

* Shortness of breath is normal with exercise I shouldn’t be concerned.  This is dangerous.  If your child has been diagnosed with asthma, it should never go untreated.  Progression to respiratory failure and an asthma emergency can happen.  Be sure to keep an inhaler on hand whenever there is physical exercise.

* Steroids for asthma stunt growth.  The inhaled steroids used to treat asthma have not been shown to cause a sustained delay in growth.  Untreated asthma however, does stunt growth.  Be sure to talk to your child’s doctor about any concerns you may have regarding treatment.  Never allow asthma to go untreated.

* The treatment for asthma is the same for everybody.  The severity of asthma varies greatly from person to person, as does its treatment.  Be sure you have your own medication supply and asthma action plan, specific to your level of severity.

It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors:

Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall Magazine and host the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook UrbanHousecallMagazine, and follow them on Twitter @urbanhousecall!