Q: My daughter is in very good physical shape but whenever she plays sports for any length of time, she seems to get winded and has to sit down to catch her breath. Should I have her stop playing?
A: We wonder whether your daughter may be experiencing exercise-induced asthma, a fairly common condition among children and teen-agers.
Current research suggests the rapid breathing associated with exercise dries the lung passages, leading to spasming of the airways. Youngsters with this form of asthma may feel winded or can't catch their breath, or they may start to cough heavily. They assume their sympstoms are due to being out of shape. If there are others in your family with asthma or you notice your daughter coughs when exposed to cold air, she may have this form of asthma.
Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments that can actually prevent the asthma attacks. Most commonly used are prescription medications inhaled into the lungs about 20 minutes before exercise. These keep the muscles surrounding the air passages relaxed during exercise. Their use alone, or in combination with some other medications, should allow your daughter to participate fully in sports. Swimming is an excellent sport for people with asthma since the air above the pool is quite humid and protects the air passages from getting dried out.
Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.