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Asthma: Exercise-Induced Asthma Factsheet (for Schools)

What Teachers and Coaches Should Know

Exercise is one of the most common triggers for kids and teens with asthma. But some people (including those who don't have asthma) have asthma symptoms only during or after exercise. This is known as exercise-induced asthma (EIA) (also called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, or EIB).

When this happens, a person might:

  • wheeze or cough
  • feel tightness or pain in the chest
  • have shortness of breath

Symptoms may happen within 5–10 minutes of exercising, and peak 5–10 minutes after exercising stops. Symptoms usually go away within 1 hour.

Students with EIA may:

  • get winded or tired easily during or after exercise
  • cough after coming inside from being active outdoors
  • not be able to run for more than a few minutes without stopping
  • need to use asthma medicine with an inhaler when symptoms happen

What Teachers and Coaches Can Do

Having EIA doesn't mean students should skip sports, gym classes, or other physical activities. As well as keeping them fit, exercise can strengthen the breathing muscles in the chest and help their lungs work better. But students with EIA may need to use inhalers before they exercise.

Teachers and coaches can help students with EIA by:

  • reminding them to carry and use their inhaler before activity
  • making time for proper warm-ups and cool-downs during practices, games, and other physical activities
  • encouraging them to breathe through the nose during exercise
  • having them take breaks during exercise and use an inhaler as prescribed if symptoms start
  • avoiding exercise in cold temperatures (or having students wear a ski mask or scarf over their mouth and nose if this can't be avoided)

You should know your students' asthma triggers and let them use their medicines when needed. If a student's symptoms don't improve or get worse after taking medicine, call the school nurse or 911.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: Mar 14, 2018

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