If you have asthma, the odds are high that you suffer from bronchospasm while working out. The vast majority of chronic asthmatics suffer from exercise-induced symptoms, but many people don’t experience wheezing and coughing at any other time. The new term for the latter condition is exercise-induced bronchoconstriction because it’s no longer considered “true” asthma.

Your lungs don’t become inflamed and the most common triggers don’t give you symptoms. However, if you do react poorly to mould, pollen, or pets as well as aerobic exercise, you probably suffer from true exercise induced asthma (EIA).

Why Do Symptoms Happen?

Chronic asthma makes you over-sensitive to sudden temperature and humidity changes, and because you tend to breathe through your mouth while exercising, you’re exposed to colder, dryer air than is usual. This provides the golden ticket to training without suffering from shortness of breath: Since it’s primarily anaerobic and aerobic exercise that makes patients gasp for air, you might be able to do weight-bearing exercises or yoga without suffering the same consequences.

Symptoms

Exercise-induced asthma causes shortness of breath, reduced physical performance, chest tightness, and coughing as a result of swelling airways. Some patients experience coughing alone. Less commonly, sufferers also experience stomach pain, an upset stomach, and a sore throat. These symptoms are not quite the same in those with exercise induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), in which the airways narrow rather than swell.

It’s critical to be diagnosed by a doctor even though some medications are available without a prescription because there are several other conditions that cause precisely the same symptoms, some of which are extremely serious. Your doctor will need to exclude disorders such as arrhythmias, gastroesophageal reflux, and vocal cord dysfunction.

Triggers

If you have exercise induced bronchoconstriction, you will most likely start wheezing within five to 15 minutes of starting to exercise. Your precise triggers and symptoms will need to be assessed to make sure you receive the right diagnosis, so write them down during the weeks preceding your doctor’s appointment.

Record how long it takes you to begin wheezing during training so that your exercise test is correctly controlled according to your fitness levels without producing a false negative, and note whether your symptoms worsen when you’re exposed to pollution.

You’ll only be diagnosed with true exercise induced asthma if your trigger is both underlying allergens or sensitivities and cold, dry air. If your resting values in a spirometry test are abnormal, your triggers may not be exercise at all, but a completely different condition.

There are indirect triggers for EIA, too. For example, if your exercise program is poorly designed for your needs, different training techniques that use warm ups and refractory periods may be enough to prevent an attack.

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Treatments

Traditional asthma medications usually provide relief for sports asthma. There’s an array of new drugs arriving on the market constantly. 2016 will see the introduction of a new medication called Mepolizumab for patients who are unresponsive to other therapies.

Traditional bronchodilators and inhalers work within seconds, but their effects can be short-lived. Long-acting beta antagonists and corticosteroids provide more lasting relief and are thus taken according to a regular schedule to prevent attacks. If your attacks are severe, intravenous corticosteroids may be needed. Chronic asthma can also benefit from allergy shots and Omalizumab.

Depending on the severity of your attacks and how often you exercise, your management will focus on preventing or soothing away your symptoms so that you can exercise at any intensity you want to without being seriously limited. Of course, this is not always possible, but nonpharmacologic therapy might help you achieve that goal.

When the weather is cold, exercise in a warm, humidified room with a covered mouth and nose. If you have true asthma, avoid allergens. As you become fitter, your symptoms will probably improve, but a 10 minute warm up and cool down should have you breathing easier, sooner. Learning to monitor your respiration can go a long way towards improving your exercise life. You’ll also need to take care of any underlying conditions and contributing illnesses like bronchitis.

The medical industry has evolved to such an extent that doctors hope to treat their patients in a way that gives them the freedom to live the lives they want to without being restrained by their chronic conditions. With trial, error, and the help of medical science, this should be achievable.

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