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Quick GuideWhat is Asthma? Asthma Myths Debunked
If I Have Asthma, Should I Avoid Exercise?
No. You shouldn't avoid physical activity because of exercise-induced asthma. There are steps you can take for prevention of asthma symptoms that will allow you to maintain normal physical activity. In fact, many athletes -- even Olympic athletes -- compete with asthma. For example, in the 1996 Olympic Games, 1 out of every 6 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 hockey
Can My Exercise-Induced Asthma Be Prevented?
Yes. Asthma inhalers or bronchodilators used prior to exercise can control and prevent exercise-induced asthma symptoms. The preferred asthma medications are short-acting beta-2 agonists such as albuterol. Taken 15-20 minutes before exercise, these medications can prevent the airways from contracting and control exercise-induced asthma for as long as 4-6 hours.
Other asthma treatments that may be useful are the long-acting beta-2 agonists, such as Serevent and Foradil, which provide 12-hour control. When these medications are taken in the morning, exercise-induced asthma symptoms may be avoided with any exercise throughout the day. It is important, however, to always have an asthma inhaler available in case symptoms still occur.
In addition to taking medications, warming up prior to exercising and cooling down after exercise can help in asthma prevention. For those with allergies and asthma, exercise should be limited during high pollen days or when temperatures are extremely low and air pollution levels are high. Infections can cause asthma (colds, flu, sinusitis) and increase asthma symptoms, so it's best to restrict your exercise when you're sick.