Exercise Induced Asthma - Prevention & Treatment

Last Editorial Review: 4/5/2002

Asthmatic children are often left in the library or homeroom while the rest of the class is in the gym. Adult asthmatics may attribute their breathing difficulties during exercise to being "out of shape" and will stop or reduce their exercise. For both of these groups, however, asthma should not preclude exercise in most cases. The following are some guidelines:

  • "Warm up" for at least 10 minutes prior to exercise. This takes advantage of a "window of safety" which may last up to an hour, often preventing E.I.A (Exercise Induced Asthma).

  • Choose an appropriate sport.

  • Make sure that your asthma is under good control before you begin exercising. Refrain from exercise and consult your doctor if your asthma is poorly controlled.

  • Avoid exercising in cold, dry air and on smoggy days. Covering the mouth and nose with a scarf in cold weather can be helpful.

  • If asthma symptoms occur during exercise, stop immediately and rest. Do not attempt to "run through" the symptoms. If your breathing difficulty continues, use your "quick relief" inhaled bronchodilator.

  • Following completion of exercise, do "cool down" exercises for 10 minutes to allow the bronchial tubes to re-warm slowly.

  • Preventative use of inhalers that contain cromolyn sodium (Intal) or bronchodilators, such as albuterol (Ventolin, Proventil), 15 to 20 minutes before exercise is usually effective. Long-acting bronchodilators, such as salmeterol (Serevent), should be taken 60 minutes before exercise. Recently, the leukotriene modifiers, montelukast (Singulair) and zafirlukast (Accolate), taken daily in pill form, have been found to help prevent E.I.A. in some athletes.

We recommend you always check with your health care professional before beginning an exercise program. For more details, please visit the Asthma Complexities Center.

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