August 17, 2016

These Olympic Athletes Didn’t Let Asthma Stop Them, Neither Should You

Shutterstock Asthma Sports GirlBy Robert A. Poarch

If you have asthma, you have something in common with these athletes:

  • Amy Van Dyken, Olympic medalist, swimming
  • Danell Leyva, Olympic medalist, gymnastics
  • Greg Louganis, Olympic medalist, diving
  • Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympic medalist, track
  • Kristi Yamaguchi, Olympic medalist, figure skating
  • Mark Spitz, Olympic medalist, swimming
  • Misty May-Treanor, Olympic medalist, beach volleyball
  • Tom Dolan, Olympic medalist, swimming

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, asthma affects more than 20 percent of elite athletes and 1 in 6 Olympic athletes. If these elite athletes can control their asthma, there’s no reason you or your child cannot enjoy the benefits of physical activity. By taking a few precautions and finding the right treatment strategy, asthma sufferers can be symptom free and lead an active, normal life. Controlling symptoms and asthma flare-ups are key to doing just about anything that you want to do:

  • Consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program.
  • Take your preventative asthma therapy on a daily basis if you have been directed to by your provider.
  • Take your short-acting bronchodilator prior to activity as directed by your provider.
  • Warm up before and gradually cool down afterward to acclimate your airways.
  • Kids should inform teachers and coaches about their asthma. Make sure everyone knows what to do during an asthma attack.
  • Have your rescue inhaler available at all times.
  • Some people benefit from covering their mouth and nose with a scarf if exercising in cold, dry air.

Sports most likely to trigger asthma include long-distance running, soccer, ice hockey, skiing, ice skating and snowboarding. Sports least likely to trigger asthma include volleyball, baseball, gymnastics, walking, leisure biking and swimming.


Asthma doesn’t have to limit your ability to have an active lifestyle. If you have questions about your asthma, contact your primary care provider. You can find a Mission Health primary care provider at mission-health.org/primarycare.

Reviewed for the Mission Health Blog by Steven Julius, MD, at Mission Children’s Hospital Pediatric Pulmonology.