- Exercise-Induced Asthma Center
- Asthma Slideshow Pictures
- Take the Asthma Quiz!
- Asthma Myths and Facts
- Find a local Asthma & Allergy Specialist in your town
What Is Exercise-Induced Asthma?
Like it sounds, exercise-induced asthma is asthma that is triggered by vigorous or prolonged exercise or physical exertion. Most people with chronic asthma experience symptoms of asthma during exercise. However, there are many people without chronic asthma who develop symptoms only during exercise.
Why Does Exercise Induce Asthma?
During normal breathing, the air we take in is first warmed and moistened by the nasal passages. Because people tend to breathe through their mouths when they exercise, they are inhaling colder and drier air.
In exercise-induced asthma, the muscle bands around the airways are sensitive to these changes in temperature and humidity and react by contracting, which narrows the airway. This results in symptoms of exercised-induced asthma, which include:
- Coughing with asthma
- Tightening of the chest
- Unusual fatigue while exercising
- Shortness of breath when exercising
The symptoms of exercise-induced asthma generally begin within 5-20 minutes after the start of exercise, or 5-10 minutes after brief exercise has stopped. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms with exercise, inform your doctor.
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.
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.
Quick GuideWhat is Asthma? Asthma Myths Debunked
What Are the Best Exercises for Someone With Asthma?
For people with exercise-induced asthma, some activities are better than others. Activities that involve short, intermittent periods of exertion, such as volleyball, gymnastics, baseball, walking, and wrestling, are generally well tolerated by people with exercise-induced asthma.
Activities that involve long periods of exertion, like soccer, distance running, basketball, and field hockey, may be less well tolerated, as are cold weather sports like ice hockey, cross-country skiing, and ice skating. However, many people with asthma are able to fully participate in these activities.
Swimming, which is a strong endurance sport, is generally well tolerated by asthmatics because it is usually performed in a warm, moist air environment.
Maintaining an active lifestyle, even exercising with asthma, is important for both physical and mental health. You should be able to actively participate in sports and activities.
Are There Some Tips to Prevent and Treat Exercise-Induced Asthma?
- Always use your pre-exercise inhaled medicines before beginning exercise.
- Perform warm-up exercises and maintain an appropriate cool down period after exercise.
- If the weather is cold, exercise indoors or wear a mask or scarf over your nose and mouth.
- Avoid exercising outdoors when pollen counts are high (if you have allergies), and also avoid exercising outdoors when there is high air pollution.
- Restrict exercise when you have a viral infection.
- Exercise at a level that is appropriate for you.
Again, asthma should not be used as an excuse to avoid exercise. With proper diagnosis and treatment of asthma, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of an exercise program without experiencing asthma symptoms.
SOURCES: American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: "Allergic Conditions: Exercise-Induced Asthma (EIA)." American Lung Association: "Search LungUSA."
Reviewed by Jonathan L. Gelfand, MD, on July 20, 2008
Portions of this page © Cleveland Clinic 2008
Asthma and Allergy Resources
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Exercise-Induced Asthma - Experience
Please describe your experience with exercise-induced asthma.Post
Exercise-Induced Asthma - Prevention
If you're prone to exercise-induced asthma, how do you prevent an attack?Post
Exercise-Induced Asthma - Best Activities
If you have asthma, what activities or types of exercise work best for you?Post
Exercise-Induced Asthma - Tips and Treatment
Please provide some tips for preventing and treating your exercise-induced asthma.Post
Top Exercise-Induced Asthma Related Articles
AllergyAn allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. When these allergens come in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to develop an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to it. It is estimated that 50 million North Americans are affected by allergic conditions. The parts of the body that are prone to react to allergies include the eyes, nose, lungs, skin, and stomach. Common allergic disorders include hay fever, asthma, allergic eyes, allergic eczema, hives, and allergic shock.
Asthma ComplexitiesThere are many unusual symptoms of asthma, including sighing, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, chronic cough, recurrent walking pneumonia, and rapid breathing. These symptoms may vary from individual to individual. These asthma complexities make it difficult to accurately diagnose and treat asthma.
Asthma OverviewAsthma is a condition in which hyperreactive airways constrict and result in symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Causes of asthma include genetics, environmental factors, personal history of allergies, and other factors. Asthma is diagnosed by a physician based on a patient's family history and results from lung function tests and other exams. Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and long-acting bronchodilators (LABAs) are used in the treatment of asthma. Generally, the prognosis for a patient with asthma is good. Exposure to allergens found on farms may protect against asthma symptoms.
Asthma SlideshowWhat is asthma? Learn about asthma, a chronic inflammation disorder of the bronchiole tubes (airways). Discover information about an asthma attack, asthma symptoms, prevention and treatments such as asthma medications and inhalers.
Chronic cough is a cough that does not go away and is generally a symptom of another disorder such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, sinus infection, cigarette smoking, GERD, postnasal drip, bronchitis, pneumonia, medications, and less frequently tumors or other lung disease.
Chronic cough treatment is based on the cause, but may be soothed natural and home remedies.
Exercise and ActivityRegular physical activity can reduce the risk of disease. Regular exercise can also reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety. There are fitness programs that fit any age or lifestyle.
InfluenzaInfluenza (flu) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. The flu may be prevented with an annual influenza vaccination.
Lungs Design And PurposeThe lungs are primarily responsible for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the air we breathe and the blood. Eliminating carbon dioxide from the blood is important, because as it builds up in the blood, headaches, drowsiness, coma, and eventually death may occur. The air we breathe in (inhalation) is warmed, humidified, and cleaned by the nose and the lungs.
Nebulizer for AsthmaAsthma nebulizers, or breathing machines, convert liquid medication into mist for easy inhalation.
Neutropenia is a marked decrease in the number of neutrophils, neutrophils being a type of white blood cell (specifically a form of granulocyte) filled with neutrally-staining granules, tiny sacs of enzymes that help the cell to kill and digest microorganisms it has engulfed by phagocytosis.
Signs and symptoms of neutropenia include gum pain and swelling, skin abscesses, recurrent ear and sinus infections, sore mouth, low-grad fever, pneumonia-like symptoms, and pain and irritation around the rectal area.
Neutropenia has numerous causes, for example, infections (HIV, TB, mono); medications (chemotherapy); vitamin deficiencies (anemia); bone marrow diseases (leukemias), radiation therapy, autoimmune destruction of neutrophils, and hypersplenism.
Treatment of neutropenia depends upon the cause and the health of the patient.
Sinus infection (sinusitis) is caused by allergies, infection, and chemicals or other irritants of sinuses. Signs and symptoms are headache, fever, and facial tenderness, pressure, or pain. Treatments of sinus infections are generally with antibiotics and at times, home remedies.