1. What is it?
Exercise induced asthma (EIA) is irritation and swelling of the airways along with production of mucus triggered by exercise, especially aerobic exercise.
2. What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can include any and all of the following: fatigue, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and chest pain. The symptoms usually start approximately 5 to 20 minutes into activities, peak at 5 to 10 minutes after activities, and gradually subside afterwards over approximately one hour.
3. What are the causes or predisposing factors?
About 90 percent of people with chronic asthma have EIA. For these people, controlling the asthma is the primary goal. Maintaining an appropriate drug regimen for short and long term relief is essential. The other component is to avoid exposure to situations that may trigger an asthma attack.
- upper respiratory tract infections
- air pollution (smoke, dust and other particulate matter)
- cold weather
About 5 percent to 10 percent of people with EIA have symptoms only when they exercise, and do not appear to be sensitive to the above triggering factors. It is thought that the action of breathing through the mouth is the cause in these cases. The theory is that the air from breathing through the mouth is not as warm, humid and filtered as the air from the nose. If your airways are sensitive to this drier, cooler air, then irritation, swelling and mucus production occurs.
4. What can be done to treat or prevent this condition?
Primary treatment is medication to control the asthma symptoms. Physicians have a great many tools to provide short and long term control of asthma.
Practical Self Care Guidelines to Control EIA
- try to reduce incidence of colds or other respiratory tract infections; if you do have a cold, avoid strenuous exercise
- avoid exposure to allergens or pollutants during exercise, use allergy mediations as directed by your physician
- avoid cold environments, wear a face mask if necessary
- warm up and cool down for at least 15 minutes before and after exercise
- try to breath through the nose and with pursed lips
- try to exercise in more humid environments
Remember, if symptoms progressively worsen, stop exercising immediately and use appropriate medication. This can be a life threatening condition. Severe episodes of asthma require immediate transportation to a hospital to keep the airways open.