Exercise Induced Asthma

Do you cough, have shortness of breath, chest tightness, or wheeze during or after exercise? Does exercising in cold air make your symptoms worse? If so, you could have exercise induced asthma. Asthma as a chronic condition is seen in about 16% of the population in the United States. Exercise induced asthma may even be a more common condition.

Exercise Induced Asthma Symptoms

Many people with asthma will often suffer increased chest congestion with exercise. Usually, this is worse in cold dry weather. Some individuals will have symptoms of asthma only with exercise. Usually, wheezing, chest tightness or coughing worsens one to ten minutes after exercising. Some people will note a “late phase” worsening of symptoms several hours after exercise.

Exercise Induced Asthma Treatment

How do you avoid having wheezing with exercise? Stopping exercise altogether is usually not an acceptable answer. First, keeping general asthma symptoms under good control is essential. Use of inhaled steroids or use of other prescribed medications may be needed. If asthma is not well controlled when a patient isn’t exercising, exercise induced asthma will persist. If you need to use a “rescue” medication more than twice a week for asthma symptoms other than those caused by exercise, additional preventative treatment is needed. Wearing a mask or scarf in cold air to help warm and moisten the air can help many individuals. Warm up exercises performed for 30 minutes before vigorous exercise have been found to diminish the severity of exercise induced symptoms. Other recommendations include pre-treatment with medication before exercise, avoiding heavy exercise when air pollution is high, and if you have pollen allergies when the pollen counts are high. A “common cold” can make asthma markedly worse, so exercise should be limited with a cold.

Although exercise induced asthma is a common condition it can usually be controlled with medications and simple precautions.