Asthma and Exercise: Managing Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction
Staying physically active is essential for maintaining overall health and managing asthma effectively. However, for some individuals, engaging in exercise or physical activities can trigger asthma symptoms, leading to a condition called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), formerly known as exercise-induced asthma.
EIB’s Impact and Prevalence Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction affects various segments of the population:
- Up to 90% of people with asthma experience EIB.
- Around 50% of competitive athletes encounter EIB.
- Among school children, 18 to 26% contend with EIB.
While EIB can present challenges, managing it should be integrated into your asthma management strategy. Regular exercise contributes to improved overall health and well-being.
Exercise and Asthma: A Balanced Approach Engaging in exercise is generally recommended for individuals with asthma, with only scuba diving being an exception. Most people with asthma can participate in sports and exercise, as long as their asthma is well controlled.
EIB Mechanism During exercise, you tend to breathe through your mouth, allowing cold and dry air to reach your lungs, irritating the airways. This can lead to the tightening of the muscles around the airway, increasing the risk of an asthma episode. While shortness of breath during exercise is common and typically subsides upon cessation, experiencing symptoms that persist after exercise may indicate exercise-induced bronchoconstriction.
Recognizing EIB Symptoms Common symptoms of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tight chest sensation
- Dry or persistent cough
If you notice these symptoms during physical activity or exercise, consult your doctor for guidance.
Preventing Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction Consider these strategies to prevent EIB:
- Maintain well-controlled asthma to minimize the likelihood of EIB.
- Keep your reliever medication and spacer with you at all times.
- Follow your asthma action plan, which may involve taking your reliever medication up to 15 minutes before warming up.
- Engage in a proper warm-up routine before exercising.
- Monitor for asthma symptoms during exercise. If symptoms arise, pause and take your reliever medication. Resume exercise only when symptoms subside. If symptoms recur during exercise, use your reliever medication again.
- After exercising, cool down as usual. Remember that asthma symptoms can emerge up to 30 minutes after exercise. If symptoms persist post-exercise, use your reliever medication.
Asthma First Aid Familiarize yourself with asthma first aid procedures to respond effectively in case of an asthma episode.
Where to Seek Help If you have concerns about exercise and asthma, seek guidance from:
- Your GP (doctor)
Remember that with proper asthma management, you can embrace physical activity while mitigating the impact of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction.