If you have cough, wheezing, trouble breathing or chest tightness when you exercise, you may be one of many people with exercise induced asthma (EIA). Asthma is seen in approximately seven percent of the population in the United States, which means that about 20 million Americans suffer with this chronic lung condition. Strenuous physical exertion can be a major trigger in most of these individuals. In addition, as many as 40% of patients with allergic rhinitis experience asthma symptoms associated with exercise.
Symptoms of EIA include difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness/pain, and coughing within 5-20 minutes after starting exercise. This is because airways are overly sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and humidity, especially when breathing colder, drier air. During strenuous physical activity, people tend to breathe through their mouths, allowing the cold, dry air to reach the lower airways without the warming, humidifying effects of the nose. In addition to mouth-breathing, air pollutants, high pollen counts and upper respiratory tract infections can also increase the severity of EIA.
EIA is diagnosed by history and measuring lung function before and after exertion. New tests done in pulmonary function testing lab under a monitored setting may eliminate the need for exercise.
Although the type and duration of recommended activities vary with each individual, some activities are better tolerated by people with EIA. These include swimming (because of warm, humid atmosphere, toning of upper body muscles and the way horizontal position may help immobilize mucus from the bottom of the lungs), walking, leisure biking and free downhill skiing. In cold weather, covering the mouth and nose can decrease symptoms by warming inhaled air. Team sports that require short bursts of energy (baseball, football, wrestling, golfing, gymnastics and shorter track and field events) are less likely to trigger EIA as opposed to sports requiring continuous activity such as soccer, basketball, field hockey and long distance running. However, with proper training and medical treatment, many asthmatics are able to excel as runners or even basketball players.
If you have questions about Exercise Induced Asthma, feel free to contact our offices. One of our staff would be happy to answer your questions about EIA and treatment options offered at Allergy & Asthma Clinics of Ohio.