Exercise-Induced Asthma: What it Is & What To Do If You Think You Have It

Asthma, a medical condition caused by the narrowing and swelling of airways that results in breathing difficulties, is a common condition affecting more than 25 million people in the United States. Although many people do not realize there are multiple types of asthma, some that need little to no medical intervention, and some that are severe and life-threatening. One lesser known type of asthma is exercise-induced asthma (or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction). Here’s what you need to know about exercise-induced asthma, and how an immunology specialist can help you manage this condition so you can continue to enjoy the important health benefits of exercise.


The Top 5 Questions On Exercise-Induced Asthma


What Is Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Exercise-induced asthma is a condition that causes the narrowing of the airways in the lungs when triggered by strenuous exercise. It’s important to note that exercise isn’t the root cause of asthma, but it can be a factor that triggers breathing difficulties which, in patients with asthma, can lead to more serious symptoms. 


What Are The Symptoms of Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Signs of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction can seem similar to other asthma symptoms, but will usually begin during or soon after exercise and last up to 60 minutes or longer if left untreated.

Common symptoms of exercise-induced asthma:

  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Shortness of breath or chest tightness or pain
  • Fatigue or below-average athletic performance
  • In children, you may see a desire to avoid physical activity


Severe symptoms that require immediate medical treatment:

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing that is rapidly increasing or worsening, so that you are struggling to breathe
  • No improvement after using your prescribed asthma inhaler


How Do you Treat Exercise-Induced Asthma?

If the symptoms are severe, such as the patient is struggling to breathe, has blue lips, can’t walk or talk or shows other signs of a severe asthma attack, call 911 immediately. After treatment, the patient should follow up with their immunology specialist to ensure their existing treatment plan is updated or to begin one that can help them manage their condition.

If the symptoms are not severe, the patient should stop the activity and rest, then follow their asthma action plan from their  immunology specialist. After the attack is under control, they should reach out to their allergist or Immunology specialist to understand what may have caused the attack.

If the patient does not already have an immunology specialist, finding one will be an important piece of the puzzle. An asthma action plan helps keep their asthma under control, reducing their likelihood of triggering an exercise-induced asthma attack so they can live a healthy, active lifestyle. 


Can Exercise-Induced Asthma Be Prevented?

Yes, many athletes continue to compete at the peak of their sport despite living with exercise-induced asthma. When you meet with your specialist, they will work to understand what is at the root cause of your asthma symptoms. Having control of your condition and keeping it managed when you are not exercising is the first step to ensuring you don’t trigger exercise-induced asthma. This may include routine asthma management medications like inhaled corticosteroids or other maintenance medications. Keeping seasonal and environmental allergies in check can also help reduce asthma symptoms, so your specialist will likely treat underlying allergies as well.

Before exercising, your specialist may recommend a treatment to prevent your airways from contracting during activity, such as an inhaler known as Albuterol, which is used 15 -20 minutes prior to exercise.


Can You Still Live An Active Lifestyle With Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Absolutely! Exercise is an important part of lung health and overall health and wellness! Don’t let your exercise-induced asthma symptoms keep you from participating in the activities you love and that keep you healthy. With the help of an allergy and immunology specialist, you can get to the root cause of your asthma symptoms and look forward to a healthy and active life without suffering from frustrating asthma and allergy symptoms. 


We’re Here To Help

At Family Allergy Asthma Clinic, we work with asthma and allergy sufferers every day to help them lead happy, active lives. Our approach combines compassionate patient care with the latest technologies and scientific information to provide accurate diagnosis, early intervention, and evidence-based treatments. If you’re ready to get to the root cause of your symptoms and find lasting relief, reach out to us here.

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