What Is Exercise-Induced Asthma, And Is There Anything I Can Do To Prevent It?

Question:What is exercise-induced asthma, and is there anything I can do to prevent it?

Answer: Exercise-induced asthma is narrowing of the airways of the lungs in response to exercise. When the airways in the lungs narrow in response to exercise, it makes it more difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs, which causes coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, fatigue, as well as poor athletic performance.

The vast majority of patients who have chronic asthma will identify exercise as a potential trigger for asthma. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes of exercise at roughly 80 to 85 percent capacity to generate enough breathing to trigger an episode of exercise-induced asthma.

Although the vast majority of cases are mild to moderate in severity, there are isolated episodes where life-threatening or even death have occurred as a result of exercise-induced asthma. So the significance should not be down-played or ignored.

In terms of prevention, routine prophylactic use of albuterol before exercise is by far the most effective way to control or reduce the risk of exercise-induced asthma.

Adjunctive measures, including wearing a mask in cold environments, avoiding known asthma triggers such as freshly cut grass and properly warming up, are also effective measures to help control or reduce the risk of exercise-induced asthma.

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