Young matman defeats illness

MORRISTOWN – What a difference a year makes.

Last year, Trevor Herbert, now a third grade student at Union Local Elementary School, was diagnosed with sports-induced asthma.

The aspiring wrestler could barely finish a match, and there were some that he didn’t, according to his father, Roger.

“Last year in a tournament in Wheeling he was winning 9-1 and started coughing a lot and complaining of shortness of breath,” his father said. “We took him off the mat and listened to him. His heart was fluttering really bad and his pulse was out of this world.

“We took him to the doctor and that’s when he was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma,” his father continued. “They gave him a nebulizer and he had some results with it, but his pulse oxygen level was dropping into the 70s which is extremely, extremely low.”

His father said that Trevor has had several tests performed at Children’s Hospital, but there was really no concrete evidence of what was wrong with him.

“He’s had CAT scans, PET scans and MRIs,” his father added.

This year, however, is an entirely different story.

The 8-year-old put his medical issues behind him and qualified for the Ohio Athletic Commission Grade School State Tournament, which is being staged this weekend inside the Covelli Center on the campus of Youngstown State University.

After placing third in the Steubenville District last weekend, he put his 35-10 mark on the line Saturday against Malakhi Brooks, of Cleveland St. Ignatius, in the 50.2-pound weight class, which featured 32 individuals.

“I don’t know whether he outgrew it or what,” his father said, shaking his head. “The best explanation that we’ve been given is that it could be because of the way his body reacts to exercising.”

His father said the coaching staff monitors Trevor before matches, during matches and after matches.

“We take all kind of precautions,” he said. “It takes us a little longer to get ready for a match, and he gets tired before some of the other kids, but he’s come out of it pretty good. We thought it was conditioning at first, but that’s certainly wasn’t it.”

According to an asthma website, up to 80% of kids with asthma have symptoms when they exercise. It makes sense that cigarette smoke and pollen could trigger asthma symptoms, but why exercise?

What happens during an asthma flare-up?

Cold, dry air that’s inhaled during exercise is believed to be the main cause of these symptoms. When kids exercise or play strenuously, they tend to breathe quickly, shallowly, and through the mouth. So the air reaching their lungs misses the warming and humidifying effects that happen when they breathe more slowly through the nose.

The cool, dry air causes the airways in the lungs to become narrower, which blocks the flow of air and makes it harder to breathe. This narrowing, called bronchoconstriction, occurs in up to 20% of people who don’t have asthma, which is why it’s sometimes referred to as “exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB)” rather than “exercise-induced asthma (EIA).”

Symptoms of exercise-induced asthma include wheezing, tightness or pain in the chest, coughing, and in some cases, prolonged shortness of breath. Some symptoms are more noticeable than others, which means exercise-induced asthma can sometimes go undiagnosed.

Someone may have exercise-induced asthma if he or she:

  • gets winded or tired easily during or after exercise.
  • coughs after coming inside from being active outdoors.
  • can’t run for more than a few minutes without stopping.

Kids with exercise-induced asthma often begin having symptoms 5 to 10 minutes after starting to exercise. Symptoms usually peak 5 to 10 minutes after stopping the activity and may take an hour or longer to end. Some people with EIA even have symptoms for hours after exercise. Although symptoms often appear while kids are active, sometimes they can appear only after the activity has stopped.

Of course, there’s a difference between someone with exercise-induced asthma and someone who’s out of shape and is simply winded. Out-of-shape people can catch their breath within minutes, whereas it takes much longer for someone with EIA to recover. And extremes of temperature, especially cold weather, can make it even worse.

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