Exercise-Induced Asthma: Treatments and Prevention

It is known as exercise-induced asthma when narrowing of the airways caused by strenuous physical activity. Those who suffer from it present shortness of breath, wheezing in the chest and cough, among other symptoms, when they exercise or after finishing it.

This alteration is presented by 4 to 9 out of 10 people with a diagnosis of asthma and 2 out of 10 people without an accurate diagnosis of the disease.

The medical term for this situation is exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. This name is more accurate because exercise induces narrowing of the bronchial tubes, but it is not the cause of asthma. Among those who do have a diagnosis of asthma, exercise may be one of the triggers.

With proper treatment, people with exercise-induced asthma can be physically active and lead active lives. Managing symptoms with medications and preventive measures contributes to achieving adequate control.

Why does exercise-induced asthma occur?

The precise cause of exercise-induced asthma is unknown.. It is likely to be the result of the interaction of various circumstances. Those who suffer from it have inflammation of the airway and may have abundant secretions after a session of vigorous exercise.

Risk factor's

Anyone can get exercise-induced asthma. Nevertheless, there are external factors that increase the risk or that trigger an episode. Among them are the following:

  • Cold or very dry air.
  • Presence of pollutants in the air.
  • Use chlorine for swimming pools.
  • High levels of pollen in the air.
  • Having had a recent cold.
  • Playing sports with deep, shaky breaths for long periods of time, such as running or swimming.

It is considered that approximately 9 out of 10 people diagnosed with asthma may suffer from exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. It also occurs more frequently in high-performance athletes.

When playing a sport that involves deep breathing, such as running, it is possible to increase the risk of exercise-induced asthma.

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What are the symptoms of exercise-induced asthma?

Symptoms of exercise-induced asthma include the following signs:

  • Cough.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Wheezing (wheezing in the chest).
  • Feeling of chest tightness.
  • Blue coloring on the lips or under the nails.
  • Difficulty speaking or standing.

With high frequency, coughing may be the main symptom of exercise-induced asthma. In many people, on the other hand, it will be the only sign.

When to see a doctor

It is essential to consult a doctor if there are symptoms of exercise-induced asthma. However, there are data that indicate that going to the professional is more urgent.

It is considered an emergency when the following evidence appears:

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing that increases accelerated and make breathing more and more difficult.
  • There is no improvement after using the inhaler prescribed for asthma episodes.

There are other diseases that can cause these conditions or be very similar, so it is vital to have a quick diagnosis and accurate treatment.

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Diagnostic tests

The doctor should perform examinations and tests to assess lung function and rule out another possible source of symptoms. The following tests are usually done to determine if it is exercise-induced asthma:

  • Determination of normal lung function: con this test called spirometry lung function is assessed when exercise is not performed. This measures how much air is inhaled, how much is exhaled, and the rate of exhalation.
  • Exercise challenge tests: This test allows the doctor to evaluate the symptoms that appear when exercising. The activity that is carried out is running on a treadmill or a stationary bicycle. The goal is to increase the respiratory rate.

Available Treatments for Exercise-Induced Asthma

Treatment focuses on the long-term symptom control and in the prevention of acute episodes. Ideally, you should be able to customize your approach based on your asthma history and the type of activity that triggers your bronchoconstriction attacks.

Long term treatment

As part of long-term treatment includes inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting beta agonists. Its goal is to prevent inflammation and regulate asthma without relying solely on pre-exercise medication.

Before exercising

Immediate-acting beta agonists and ipratropium are used before exercise to prevent an acute episode. Both have the final effect of opening the airway, although they achieve it by different mechanisms.

Inhalers can contain a variety of medications, from corticosteroids to beta agonists.

Recommendations for exercising with asthma

There are several recommendations for people with exercise-induced asthma. One of them is to warm up before physical activity and gradually cool down afterward. This technique can help prevent acute episodes.

For people with allergies and asthma it is recommended limiting exercise on days with high levels of pollen in the air. It is also advised not to exercise when the temperature is very low or if there are reports of high levels of contamination.

Respiratory infections, such as colds, flu, and sinusitis, can induce an asthma episode and increase symptoms. For this reason it is recommended restricting physical activity when there is one of them.

It is very important to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program, particularly if you already have a diagnosis. With comprehensive treatment, people with exercise-induced asthma can play sports without experiencing symptoms.

The clinical picture should not prevent the fact of having an active life or achieve sports goals. Many of the top Olympians and professionals suffer from exercise-induced asthma.