What Should You Know About Exercise-Induced Asthma?
If you have chronic asthma, you will likely develop the symptoms during exercise. In some people, however, asthma attacks occur only as a result of intense or prolonged exercise or any other physical exertion. This condition is known as exercise-induced asthma.
Why Does Exercising Trigger Asthma Symptoms?
When you breathe normally, your nasal passages warm and moisten the air you inhale. During exercise, many people breathe through their mouths, which leads to colder and drier air getting into your system.
In people with exercise-induced asthma, the group of muscles around the airways is more sensitive to changing temperatures and humidity levels, than in other people. Thus, when a person is exercising and breathing through their mouth, the muscles react by contracting, making the airways narrower.
The most commonly occurring symptoms of exercise-induced asthma include: tightening of the chest, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, as well as unusual fatigue during the workout. The symptoms usually appear with 5 to 20 minutes after you start exercising, or 5-10 minutes after you finish brief exercise. If you develop any of these symptoms during exercise, you should talk to your doctor.
Having exercise-induced asthma doesn’t mean you should avoid physical activity though. In fact, there are many athletes who compete with this condition. All you have to do is to follow certain steps for prevention of asthma symptoms, when you are exercising.
How to Prevent Exercise-Induced Asthma?
There are various medications or medical devices available on the market that help to control exercise-induced asthma. For example, you can use an asthma inhaler or bronchodilator before exercise to prevent the symptoms. Inhaled ipratropium helps to relax the airways, which can also be useful, if you take it prior to exercising.
Albuterol or other short-acting beta-2 agonists are the commonly used asthma medications that help to prevent the muscles around the airways from contracting. Experts recommend taking this meds 10 minutes before exercise for a better control of exercise-induced asthma.
To control the symptoms during exercise, you should also control your asthma in general. Your routine management of asthma may involve inhaled corticosteroids like beclomethasone dipropionate (Qvar) or budesonide (Pulmicort), or an inhaler that combines long-acting beta-2 agonist and a corticosteroid, such as Advair or Symbicort. You can also try tiotropium bromide (Spiriva Respimat), which is a long-acting anticholinergic medication. It can be used along with a regular asthma control medication by anyone older than 5 years. It’s not a rescue inhaler though.
Another way to prevent exercise-induced asthma is to include warm-up and cool-down exercises into your workout routine.
If you have allergic asthma, make sure to avoid or restrict exercising on the days when pollen counts (in case of pollen allergy) or air pollution levels are high. On cold days, you may want to exercise indoors, or at least wear a scarf over your nose and mouth.
It’s also recommended to limit exercising when you are sick, since some infections, such as colds, flu or sinusitis, may cause asthma or worsen the symptoms.
Are There Any Activities Recommended for Those with Asthma?
Physical activity is an essential factor for maintaining overall health, even for people with exercise-induced asthma.
If you have exercise-induced asthma, some activities may be more suitable for you than others. Thus, to avoid the symptoms, experts suggest that you participate in activities involving short and fragmentary physical exertion. It can be walking, wrestling, gymnastics, volleyball or baseball. Swimming is also usually good for people with asthma. Although this kind of sport requires strong endurance, it is usually done in a warm, moist air environment, favorable for asthma.
When it comes to other activities, such those that require long periods of exertion, some people may have difficulties tolerating them. These include distance running, basketball, soccer, and field hockey. In addition, cold weather sports, such as ice hockey, ice skating, or cross-country skiing, may not be suitable for some individuals with asthma.
The Bottom Line
Exercise-induced asthma is a serious condition but you shouldn’t use it as an excuse to avoid any intense physical activities. Talk to you doctor about the best methods to control your symptoms and enjoy the benefits of exercising.