Asthma is a chronic (continuing) problem affecting the airways. When someone has asthma, the airways can become swollen, narrowed, and clogged with mucus. Some people with asthma can have flare-ups, during which they have a hard time breathing.
Most people with asthma have symptoms when they exercise. Some people have asthma symptoms only when they exercise: This is called exercise-induced asthma (EIA).
Symptoms of EIA include:
People with exercise-induced asthma often start having symptoms 5 to 10 minutes after they begin working out. Symptoms usually peak 5 to 10 minutes after the person stops exercising, then go away within an hour. For some people with EIA, asthma symptoms last for hours after they exercise. Sometimes symptoms appear only after the person has stopped exercising.
Really cold weather can make EIA worse.
Some people with EIA think they're having breathing trouble because they are out of shape. But there's an easy way to tell the difference. A person who is just winded from being out of shape will start breathing normally again soon after exercising. For someone with exercise-induced asthma, it may take up to an hour to recover.
If you think you have EIA, let your parents know. You'll need to see a doctor.
To decide if you have EIA, a doctor will probably start by asking about your medical history. The doctor will also examine you. You might run on a treadmill for 6 to 8 minutes, run outside, or do the activity that caused the flare-ups. Then, the doctor will look at how you're breathing.
If it turns out you have exercise-induced asthma, your doctor might want you to take asthma medicine before any kind of strenuous activity. This is often the same quick-relief medicine used for flare-ups. You breathe the medicine directly into your lungs before exercising and it works immediately to open up the airways. Doctors sometimes call this pretreatment.
If pretreatment isn't enough, your doctor may recommend that you also take daily long-term control medicine. This kind of medicine works over time to help keep the airways in the lungs open. You need to take it every day, even when you feel well.
Many people find that if they take medicine as prescribed by their doctors, they can work out with few or no problems.
There's no reason to stop playing sports or working out because you have EIA. Exercise is great for everyone. As well as keeping you fit, exercise can strengthen the breathing muscles in the chest and help your lungs work better. For this reason, doctors no longer tell people with asthma to avoid exercising and might, in fact, recommend it as part of asthma treatment.
Some sports are less likely to cause problems, though. These recommended activities include:
Some sports are more challenging for people with exercise-induced asthma:
You can probably still do even the most challenging sports if you truly enjoy them. It just takes careful management, the right medicine, and proper training. Some of the athletes competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics have asthma, including figure skating gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu.
When it comes to EIA, staying one step ahead of your symptoms is a good strategy. Ask your doctor what you should do before exercising or playing sports.
Here are some of the things doctors suggest for people who have EIA:
Taking medicine exactly as your doctor prescribes is the most important tip of all. Skipping long-term control medicine can make symptoms worse. Forgetting to take medicine before exercise can lead to severe flare-ups and even ER visits.
Finally, always keep your inhaler with you when exercising. You may feel shy about your asthma, but don't hide it from coaches or teammates — they can help you. Coaches especially should know about your asthma so they will understand if you need to take a break and use your medicine.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: February 2014
|American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers up-to-date information and a find-an-allergist search tool.|
|American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The ACAAI is an organization of allergists-immunologists and health professionals dedicated to quality patient care. Contact them at: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology|
85 W. Algonquin Road
Suite 550 Arlington Heights, IL 60005
|American Lung Association The mission of this group is to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Contact the group at: American Lung Association|
61 Broadway, 6th Floor
NY, NY 10006
|AIRNow A cross-agency U.S. government website, AIRNow provides useful air quality information, including daily Air Quality Index forecasts and details on conditions in more than 300 U.S. cities.|
|Can the Weather Affect a Person's Asthma? Scientific studies show that weather can affect asthma symptoms. If you think weather may be triggering your asthma, here are some tips for dealing with it.|
|Can People With Asthma Play Sports? Exercise helps strengthen the breathing muscles in the chest, which is especially important for people with asthma because it can help the lungs work better. Find out which sports are best for someone with asthma.|
|Dealing With Asthma Triggers Triggers are substances or activities that are harmless to most people. But in people with asthma, they can lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Read this article for tips on dealing with asthma triggers.|
|School and Asthma Lots of teens have asthma. Here are tips on keeping it under control so you don't have a flare-up in school.|
|Asthma Center Visit our Asthma Center for information and advice on managing and living with asthma.|
|How Do Asthma Medicines Work? Two different types of medicines are used to treat asthma: quick-relief medicines and long-term control medicines. Read about how they work - and why people might need to take them.|
|Asthma Millions of teens in the United States have asthma, a lung condition that causes difficulty breathing. Here are the basics on symptoms, triggers, and treatments.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.