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Exercise Induced Asthma

Exercise-induced asthma, or E.I.A., is a medical condition that occurs when the airways narrow as a result of exercise. The preferred term for this condition is exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB); exercise does not cause asthma, but is frequently an asthma trigger.

EIA is more common in cold sports (skiing, ice skating, hockey, running in the cold, etc.) and in sports where pollen levels are higher (spring and fall). Also, swimmers are at risk due chlorine is a lung irritant.

The cause of EIA is not completely defined. It usually occurs after at least several minutes of vigorous, “aerobic” activity, which demands that normal nasal breathing be supplemented by mouth-breathing.

Exercise-Induced Asthma Symptoms

Symptoms usually begin about five to 20 minutes after beginning to exercise. The symptoms often peak about five to 10 minutes after stopping exercise then gradually diminish. The symptoms are typically gone within an hour, but they may last longer. Symptoms include one or a combination of the following:

Coughing, Wheezing, Chest Tightness, Chest pain, Prolonged shortness of breath, extreme fatigue

Symptoms of asthma may be more subtle in children.

Children may complain of not being able to keep up with peers in games and sports. They may say they don’t like games or avoid participating. This can lead to problems with socialization or self-esteem in some children

When to Seek Medical Care

If you think you or your child may have exercise-induced asthma, promptly make an appointment with your health-care professional. Asthma attacks can be extremely serious

Your health-care professional (whether your primary-care provider or sports medicine specialist) will ask you questions about your symptoms, medical history, family history, and medications.

Measurements of how well you are breathing can be assessed using the following methods:

Spirometry: The spirometer is a device that measures how much air you can exhale and how forcefully you can breathe out. The test may be done before and after you inhale a medication. Spirometry is a good way to see how much your breathing is impaired during an attack. This test must be done in the medical office; you may exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle or inhale an aerosol that mimics exercise in the lung called a bronchoprovocation challenge.

A chest x-ray may also be taken. This is mostly to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

Peak flow meter: This is another way of measuring how forcefully you can breathe out during an attack. This device is small and portable and can be used “in the field.” This allows testing after six to eight minutes of your usual activity. Best done on the field when having symptoms. >10% decrease from baseline is a positive indicator of exercise induced asthma.

Treatment:

If mild may require the athlete to only inhale a medication prior to exercise. If more severe, treatment may require a daily medication to keep asthma under control. Severe asthmatics require multiple daily medications to keep asthma under control. It is very rare for this asthma to be so severe that sports would need to be discontinued.

Fast facts:

  • There is no cure for asthma, but asthma can be managed with proper prevention and treatment.
  • Asthma has a genetic component. If only one parent has asthma, chances are 1 in 3 that each child will have asthma. If both parents have asthma, it is much more likely (7 in 10) that their children will have asthma.

Every day in America:

  • 44,000 people have an asthma attack.
  • 36,000 kids miss school due to asthma.
  • 27,000 adults miss work due to asthma.
  • 4,700 people visit the emergency room due to asthma.
  • 1,200 people are admitted to the hospital due to asthma.
  • 9 people die from asthma.
  • 4200 deaths per year related to asthma