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Regular exercise is a pillar of healthy living, but for millions of Americans a jog or run through the park might cause panting, wheezing, and shortness of breath. And it’s not always because they’re out of shape.
Exercise-induced asthma and exercise-induced bronchospasm, or EIA and EIB, are terms used to describe asthma symptoms triggered by exercise. And they occur more
frequently than people realize.
It’s unclear exactly how many people in the United States have exercise-induced asthma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 19 million Americans have diagnosed asthma. As many as 90 percent of the individuals in that group experience the effects of asthma during exercise. Others might feel asthma-like symptoms while exercising but have not actually been diagnosed with asthma.
The Dangers of Exercise-Induced Asthma
Ignoring asthma symptoms during exercise can be dangerous. If you notice specific warning signs, it’s worth a visit to your doctor.
“Asthma and shortness of breath create respiratory distress with all of its manifestations, including anxiety, and elicit the same physical and emotional responses as asthma induced by any other ‘trigger,'” says Constantine Saadeh, MD, director of Allergy A.R.T.S. in Amarillo, Texas. “As with any exacerbation, the symptoms may vary in severity from episode to episode. That is why proper management and monitoring by a medical specialist is so vital in avoiding such exacerbations.”
5 Warning Signs of Exercise-Induced Asthma
If you suspect exercise is causing your asthma symptoms, the best approach is to see a doctor for a diagnosis. Dr. Saadeh suggests looking out for these five signs that you might have exercise-induced asthma and need therapy to manage it:
- You experience coughing fits of varying severity while exercising.
- You develop a noticeable wheeze as you go through your workout routine or after working out.
- You become short of breath during or after a workout.
- You experience chest tightness during or after a workout.
- Your symptoms get worse under certain weather-related conditions, such as cold, dry air; days with a high pollen count; or days with high pollution or poor air quality.
Tips for Exercise-Induced Asthma
No matter how old you are, onset of any or all of these symptoms during exercise should prompt a trip to the doctor. Once you’ve been diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchospasm, the treatment is are simple and highly effective, Saadeh says. “Patients with asthma can exercise just as regular people can, provided they are compliant with the medications.”
If you manage your exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchospasm, you should be able to pursue an active and healthy lifestyle — enjoying exercise and fitness activities without asthma symptoms holding you back.