Asthma Complexities (cont.)

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Exercise and sports

Sports and asthma are not mutually exclusive. In the 1996 Olympic Games, one out of every six athletes had asthma. These Olympians competed in a variety of sports such as track and field, mountain biking, kayaking, cycling, and rowing. The following is an abbreviated list of athletes who have competed despite their asthma.

  • Jackie Joyner-Kersee -- track and field
  • Jerome Bettis -- NFL running back
  • Amy Van Dyken -- swimming
  • Dennis Rodman -- NBA basketball
  • Ray Bourque -- NHL ice hockey

Exercise-induced asthma (EIA)

Exercise is a common trigger for asthma and may cause symptoms such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing in 80%-90% of patients with asthma. The symptoms usually start about 10 minutes into the exercise or five to 10 minutes after completing the activity, although some people experience symptoms about four to eight hours after exercise. Although exercise-induced asthma may affect all ages, it is most common in children and young adults. All athletes, from weekend warriors to professionals and Olympians, can be affected.

This common occurrence of exercise-induced asthma among individuals with asthma has led to the misconception that asthmatic patients cannot exercise. As a result, children with asthma often stay in the library or homeroom while the rest of the class is in the gym. Adult asthma patients may attribute their breathing difficulties during exercise to being "out of shape" and hence curtail their level of exercise. For most asthma patients, however, exercise-induced asthma is treatable and preventable, thereby allowing children and adults with asthma to fully participate in sports and exercise. Regular exercise is beneficial for the heart, circulatory system, muscles (including breathing muscles), and mental health, but it will not cure the asthma.

Exercise-induced asthma is diagnosed by a pattern of asthmatic symptoms prompted by exercise. When the diagnosis is unclear, it can be confirmed in a doctor's office by performing breathing tests at rest and after exercise.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/5/2015

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