Exercise-Induced Asthma (EIA) or Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (EIB) is a medical condition that occurs when the bronchial tubes narrow and breathing becomes difficult as a result of exercise. It most often affects children and therefore many adults who suffer from the illness precariously ignore its symptoms and either “work through it” or stop exercising entirely because they feel they “can’t”.
Rarely fatal, EIA or EIB can occur in people who don’t otherwise have asthma or allergies; and can be developed over time no matter one’s age or fitness level. For those who DO experience or develop this ailment, activities that involve long periods of aerobic exertion (i.e. long distance running) will cause more severe flare-ups. Conversely, short bouts of anaerobic exertion (i.e. weight lifting) are usually better tolerated.
Now, you may be asking why am I covering a topic that affects one 7 – 20% of the population…keep reading and you’ll see. If left untreated and the inflammation persists, permanent narrowing of the airways can occur. If this happens, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, aka COPD (the THIRD leading cause of death in the United States) can develop.
Now do I have your attention? I thought so.
The following are the most common symptoms of Exercise-Induced Asthma – which generally being within 5 to 20 minutes after the start of exercise or 5 to 10 minutes after training has stopped:
- Coughing with asthma
- Tightening of the chest
- Unusual fatigue while exercising
- Excessive shortness of breath when exercising
Some recommended tips to help prevent and treat EIA or EIB include:
- Always use a prescribed inhaler before beginning exercise. Obviously, if you don’t have one…get one. The preferred asthma medications to be taken before exercise which will help prevent the airways from contracting are; albuterol (to be taken 10 minutes prior) and Intal or Tilade (to be taken 15 to 20 minutes prior).
- Perform a moderate warm-up prior to any long-term exercise session and, as always, a sufficient cool down afterwards.
- If the weather is cold, pollen counts are high or if there is high air pollution, exercise indoors or wear a mask or scarf over your nose and mouth.
- Avoid exercise if you have a viral infection.
- Eat cruciferous vegetables like; broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, kale. Yes, research EATING antioxidant-rich foods (NOT supplements) reduces the risk of lung disease by one half.
Remember, asthma should not be used as an excuse to avoid training. In fact, staying in good shape, or getting there if you are over weight, can ease asthma symptoms over time. Therefore, if you or someone you know is having trouble breathing while exercising, have them see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.