Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects the air passages that transport air to and from your lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Asthma that is triggered by strenuous or prolonged physical exertion or exercise is termed exercise-induced asthma. It produces symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and fatigue during or a few minutes after exercise. Exercise-induced asthma can also sometimes occur in those who are not suffering from chronic asthma.
During normal breathing, air is moistened and warmed as it passes through the nose. Exercise causes you to breathe through your mouth, resulting in cold and dry air entering into your lungs. This can trigger inflammation and constriction of the air passages and production of mucus in some people.
When you present with symptoms of exercise-induced asthma, your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history. A thorough physical examination is performed ruling out other possible causes of your symptoms. You may be instructed to exercise on a treadmill or other stationary equipment to reproduce your symptoms. Your doctor may administer a bronchodilator medication to open up your air passages and instruct you to repeat the exercises. Your response to exercise as well as medication is assessed by spirometry, a lung function test that determines how effectively you breathe.
Your doctor will prescribe short-term medication to be administered before engaging in exercise as well as long-term medication to be taken on a daily basis. Exercise-induced asthma should not be a reason to avoid exercise. You will be advised to avoid those sports that require extended periods of exertion such as distance running, and instead engage in activities that involve brief, intermittent periods of exertion such as tennis. Your symptoms may be minimized by warming up prior to exercise and breathing through your nose during exercise. You should avoid vigorous exercises when you have a respiratory infection.