Exercise Induced Asthma
Exercise Induced Asthma is a relatively common problem that can go undiagnosed as some attribute their symptoms to being unfit.
The symptoms with which asthma presents are cough, breathlessness, chest tightness, or wheezing and are caused by the airways in the lungs narrowing. Many triggers cause asthma e.g. colds, dust mites and exercise.
In addition to asthma another condition is Exercise Induced Asthma or (EIA) when physical activity is the only trigger causing narrowing of the airways, and producing the symptoms of Asthma.
When breathing normally air enters our lungs through the nose, where it is warmed, moistened, and filtered. During exercise it is necessary to breathe through our mouths, enabling us to acquire the large amounts of air needed to sustain the increased level of energy. In susceptible airways when we breathe air that is unfiltered, dry and cold it causes bronchoconstriction (narrowing of the airways), producing the symptoms of asthma which are chest tightness, wheeze/cough and breathlessness.
How will I know if I have EXERCISE INDUCED ASTHMA (EIA) ?
If you have any of these symptoms during or after playing sport or exercising/activities, you may be experiencing EIA.
- Shortness of breath a few minutes after starting to exercise/play sport
- Tight feeling in chest while playing a sport or exercising
- Stopping exercise/sport/activity because you feel unwell
- Wheezing and/or coughing
If you think you may have any of the signs of EIA, and have not been diagnosed with asthma, please contact your family doctor for advice.
Being active is important for people with asthma as it helps in the management of the condition. Exercise helps to strengthen the muscles used for breathing and, over time, may even help to improve your EIA symptoms. If you have asthma it is important that you participate in sports or exercise to help in its management. If you struggle to participate in sports or exercises that are deemed 'high intensity / impact', here are some ideas for 'lower intensity' sports and exercises:
- Tai Chi
If exercising outdoors is a challenge, especially on cooler days or when pollen counts are high, consider doing exercise indoors either at home or joining a local gym.
If you already know you have EIA or long term asthma here is some advice to help prevent symptoms:
- Prepare your airways by using either two puffs of your ‘reliever’ medication (i.e. Ventolin, Respigen or Salair) or one breath of Symbicort, 20 minutes before warming up
- Do some warm-up exercise e.g. gentle exercises and stretching for 5-10 minutes. This will help to increase your heart and breathing rates gradually lessening the effects of the cold air
- Do this and you are ready to start
If you experience symptoms playing sport or exercising:
- STOP and take some slow, deep breaths
- Take two puffs of your ‘reliever’ medication (one at a time), using a spacer if accessible. or one breath of Symbicort.
- Return to activity if you are free of symptoms
If your symptoms continue or return after you recommence, STOP, repeat inhaler instructions and see a doctor as soon as possible.
Take a look at our Exercise Induced Asthma brochure for more information.
To see what to do in an Asthma Emergency, please click here >