Exercise-induced Asthma

Asthma Management

​Exercise-induced Asthma

Most people with asthma have symptoms during exercise. But many others develop symptoms only during exercise – this is exercise-induced asthma (EIA). EIA is asthma that’s only triggered by vigorous or prolonged exercise or physical exertion. Sometimes, it’s the only recognizable symptom of asthma.

Children are more likely than adults to have EIA symptoms, which are often present after cool, dry air enters the lungs and causes your airways to narrow. Air pollutants and environmental allergies may also cause, or worsen, EIA symptoms.

Common symptoms include:

  • Coughing or wheezing

  • Tightening of the chest

  • Shortness of breath while exercising or playing

  • Unusual tiredness while exercising or playing

EIA symptoms generally being within five to 20 minutes after the start of exercise or play, or five to 10 minutes after brief exercise or play has stopped.

Treatment and Prevention

The goal of EIA treatment is to allow you to participate in physical activities without experiencing any symptoms. There are steps you can take for prevention that will allow you to maintain normal activity:

  • Monitor environmental conditions. You should limit outdoor exercise and activities during high pollen days, when temperatures are extremely low or when air pollution levels are high. Infections can also cause asthma and increase symptoms, so it’s best to limit exercise and physical activity when you’re sick.

  • Choose an exercise or activity that feels good. If you have EIA, some activities are better than others. Activities that involve short, irregular periods of exertion are generally well-tolerated, including volleyball, baseball or softball, wrestling or walking. Swimming is also generally well-tolerated because you’re breathing warm, humid air.

  • Take medication. You can use asthma inhalers, bronchodilators (albuterol) or anti-inflammatory medications prior to exercise to help prevent your airways from contracting, and help control EIA.

Maintaining an active lifestyle, including exercising with asthma, is very important to your health and well-being. With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can enjoy the benefits of exercising without experiencing asthma symptoms.


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