and Answers About Exercise
Induced Asthma affects up to 20% of highly competitive athletes,
including many Olympic athletes, and it
affects 90% all of asthmatics, according to the American Academy
of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
Below Clifford Bassett, MD, Fellow of the AAAAI and member of
the AAAAI's Public Education Committee, answers some common questions
about exercise-induced asthma.
What is Exercise Induced Asthma?
Patients with Exercise Induced Asthma have airways that are overly
sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and humidity, especially
colder, drier air. They may feel some difficulty breathing within
5-20 minutes after exercise, due to narrow airways making it
tough for air to move out of the lungs.
What are the symptoms of Exercise Induced Asthma?
Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, tight chest, and prolonged
and unexpected shortness of breath after about 6-8 minutes of
exercise. These symptoms are often worse in cold, dry air. Warm
and humid air may decrease the symptoms. Unfortunately pollens
and molds are present at the times of the year when the air is
warm and humid and these substances in the air may also trigger
attacks of asthma.
How is Exercise Induced Asthma treated?
It can be treated effectively by following
this basic treatment checklist:
- Use a short-acting inhaler 15 minutes prior to exercise. This
will help ease asthma exacerbations, and lasts between 4 and
- Warm-up for 6-10 minutes before beginning a full exercise
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Stop exercising if symptoms arise
- Cool down at the end of your
If I have Exercise Induced Asthma, can
I still participate in sports?
Although the type and duration of recommended activity varies
with each individual, some activities are better for people with
Exercise Induced Asthma,
- Swimming – sport
of choice for asthmatics because of its many positive factors:
a warm, humid atmosphere, year-round
and toning of upper body muscles
- Leisure biking
- Free downhill skiing
Any other advice?
Exercise is beneficial to both physical health and emotional
well-being. Even if you are not striving for an Olympic medal,
almost all people
with Exercise Induced Asthma should be able to exercise to their
full ability with appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
If you have been experiencing symptoms of Exercise Induced Asthma,
it is important to see an allergist/immunologist. An allergist/immunologist
will provide you with a personalized management plan and guidelines
to follow to allow you to exercise again comfortably.
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