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Understanding Exercise-Induced Asthma And How To Help It

Asthma patient using inhaler

Exercise is essential to everyone’s good health, even those struggling with asthma. It’s one way to keep our body strong and healthy and even improve our disease resistance. Unfortunately, asthmatics often experience episodes of asthma when performing rigorous exercise. With a little preparation and some prevention, many people with asthma are able to exercise without experiencing an attack.

Understanding Exercise-Induced Asthma 

Anyone can experience shortness of breath as part of rigorous exercise. The airflow obstruction that occurs as part of exercising is known as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). EIB used to be referred to as exercise-induced asthma. It was changed due to giving the incorrect impression that asthma could be caused by exercise. However, 90% of those who have asthma will experience some degree of EIB while exercising.

When exercising, the demands placed on the body cause your breath to come faster and deeper. This is done to match the increased oxygen demands your body has while being active. Generally, when we’re breathing, we do so through our noses. When actively exercising, we open our mouths so we can draw air in greater quantities. However, this leads to the air inhaled being cooler and dryer than when brought in through the nose. Just like a cold, dry day, this increases the likelihood for an asthma attack to be triggered.

Some Symptoms Of EIB Include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Tightness in the Chest
  • Shortness of breath

EIB’s most frequently occurring symptom is coughing, and it often appears on its own. When symptoms do appear, it’s generally after having been exercising for a period of time. They often appear while exercising or within 10 minutes of cessation of exercise. It typically takes about 24 minutes for them to resolve, and their severity can range from mild to intense. Studies have shown that some asthma sufferers will experience a late-phase, or second wave, set of symptoms within 4-12 hours of exercising. This second wave of symptoms is generally less severe and can persist for up to 24 hours.

How To Manage Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction 

It is possible to exercise without the onset of symptoms of asthma. Accomplishing this requires that you take certain steps to help prevent the onset of EIB. These steps include:

  • Use a scarf over your lower face in cold, dry weather
  • Take your medicine prior to exercising
  • Spend up to 10 minutes warming up prior to rigorous exercise
  • Monitor your respiration before you exercise, as well as throughout and after.

If your child struggles with EIB, be certain to inform the staff at their school. This will ensure that educators know the proper steps to take to ensure they get the most out of their experience. If you have further questions regarding EIB, you can reach out to your specialist. They’ll have further tips for you and greater insight into the particulars of your case of asthma. Staying fit can reduce attacks, so it’s important to ensure that your exercise isn’t interfered with by EIB.


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