By: Carol Smith M.D. _ Birmingham Allergy and Asthma
As athletes take to the fields this school year, keep in mind the potential problems for some of our most vulnerable patients. Not only those with asthma, but also kids with a history of anaphylaxis to stinging insects or foods, and even nasal allergies and eczema need a treatment plan to ensure a safe sports season.
• Give the coach a heads up – Alert the coach to any allergic condition, as well as what to do in case of an emergency. Provide detailed instructions on where medications are kept on the field and on how to use injectable epinephrine in case of a severe allergic reaction.
• Ensure safe snacking – Snacks are the highlight of the game for little ones – except for the child who is allergic to peanuts, milk or other common snack food allergens. Before putting together the snack-assignment schedule, poll parents on children’s allergies to find out if any foods should be avoided. Food allergies can be serious, so if you suspect you or your child suffer from them, see an allergist to get tested and develop a plan.
• Beware of unexpected opponents – Bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and fire ants are some of the different critters that may hang out on or near sports fields that can pack a powerful punch if they sting or bite. Administer injectable epinephrine and call 911 in the case of a serious reaction, including hives, difficulty breathing and swelling of the tongue.
• Stock the first-aid kit – Make room in the team first aid kit for latex-free bandages and antihistamines to treat minor allergic reactions. If you know you or your child has a life-threatening allergy, make sure injectable epinephrine is with you at all times.
• Find the right sport – Sports that involve a lot of running – such as soccer, basketball and field hockey – can be tough for kids and adults with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), commonly referred to as exercise induced asthma. In addition to using your prescribed daily asthma control medications, use a short-acting, quick relief inhaler at least 20 minutes before exercise and warm up for at least 5-10 minutes before taking the field. If the amount of running is too much, consider switching to a more asthma friendly sport, such as baseball, golf or swimming. An allergist can advise you on asthma treatment options and help you manage EIB, a condition that affects up to 10 percent of the population and 80 percent to 90 percent of those with asthma.
• Stop the sneezing – To help head off a mid-at-bat sneezing fit due to allergies to grass, ragweed and other pollen-producing plants, take allergy medication before the game. Wash off the pollen by jumping in the shower after the game.
• Keep your germs to yourself – Better not share uniforms and pads if you have eczema, since bacteria can more easily infect a disrupted skin layer.
Find an allergist to discuss long-term treatment plans for the allergic athlete, and help keep the playing field level.