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Exercise-Induced Asthma

Asthma varies significantly in causes, age of onset, and severity. And exercise is a common asthma trigger.

If you have an audible wheezing, labored breathing, and feelings of chest tightness when you exercise, you may experience exercise-induced asthma, also known as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). This happens when the airways that carry air to the lungs narrow or become blocked with exercise, triggering symptoms of asthma.

When you exercise, you not only breathe more rapidly, but also breathe through your mouth rather than the nose, leaving less time and fewer filters for the air to become warm, and humidified for the lungs. The air that reaches the lungs is mostly unfiltered, cold, and dry. The difference between the warm, moist, and filtered air in the lungs and the cold, dry inhaled air can set off an attack.

Other triggers that can make the symptoms worse are high pollen counts, exposure to smoke or a recent cold/asthma episode.

This type of asthma can overlap with other types. Most of all people with chronic allergic asthma or reactive airway disease cannot endure strenuous exercise.However, this condition can occur in people who don’t experience any form of asthma and have no allergies.

Certain physical activities are more likely to cause EIA. The sports that involve extended periods of vigorous activity, such as soccer, distance cycling, tennis, marathons, ice hockey, skiing, snowboarding will more likely to cause symptoms compared with activities such as baseball, volleyball or swimming.

The symptoms can start a few minutes after beginning exercise and usually increase after exercise ends, reaching a highest point 8-10 minutes after maximal exercise peaks.

Symptoms can go on for another 20-30 minutes after sports, although some athletes experience EIA symptoms for more longer periods – 4-12 hours after stopping exercise.

Common symptoms include tight, purposeful coughing (regular coughs are usually uncontrollable, coming in waves), wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound commonly heard when breathing out), chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

However, coughing can be the only symptom to occur. Fortunately, most people who have EIA/EIB do not have to limit their physical activities.

If your asthma symptoms are limited to exercise, and it doesn’t have an allergic component, inhaler medications, such as Albuterol inhaler, will be the base of therapy.

If you cough or wheeze when you exercise, it’s best to see a specialist who can find out the root of your symptoms and develop the best treatment plan that can help you to achieve your athletic goals.

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