Exercise Induced Asthma Orange County

Newport Children's Medical Group

Exercise and Asthma

Asthma consists of two components:

  • The underlying chronic inflammation
  • The periodic asthma attacks

While the causes for the underlying inflammation remain uncertain, what is known is that asthma tendencies run in families and some people are born with
asthma tendencies.

Exposure to an asthma trigger causes attacks. In exercise-induced asthma, that trigger is mouth breathing during exercise.

When you’re at rest, you breathe through your nose. The nose warms and humidifies the air. This makes it more like the air already in your lungs.

However, when you exercise, the mouth does the breathing. So, the air that hits the lungs tends to be cooler and drier. The contrast between the warm air residing in the lungs and the inhaled cooler air can trigger the asthma attack.

Symptoms of Asthma

When you’re exposed to this trigger, the asthma symptoms that result are similar to an allergic reaction:

  • The air breathed through the mouth is consider by the body to be an invader
  • In response, the body reacts to the invasion by producing large amounts of mucus
  • The airways begin to swell
  • This partially obstructs the airways making exhaling difficult

This makes asthma a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) like chronic bronchitis or emphysema.

Exercise-Induced Asthma Symptoms

Somewhere between 5 and 20 minutes into your exercise, symptoms will appear. They’ll peak about 5 to 10 minutes after ceasing activity then gradually diminish in intensity. They could include:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Prolonged shortness of breath
  • Chest pain and tightness
  • Coughing and Wheezing

In addition children may complain of not being able to keep up a game playing pace with their friends. They also may avoid games altogether because of this.

Playing Sports with Asthma

Sports that tend to cause asthma symptoms are ones that where continuous activity occurs or ones played in cold weather:

  • Soccer
  • Ice and field hockey
  • Cross country skiing
  • Basketball
  • Long distance running

Sports that children with asthma can play generally require short bursts of activity with periods of little or no action. They’re less likely to trigger an asthma attack:

  • Recreational biking
  • Walking
  • Baseball
  • Golf
  • Football
  • Wrestling
  • Volleyball

Asthma Control and Management

Asthma medication remains the best way to manage exercise induced asthma. In fact, with the right treatment, almost anyone afflicted with exercise-induced asthma, can enjoy all of the benefits of exercise.

If your child has exercise-induced asthma, develop an action plan with your health care provider in the event asthma relief becomes necessary.

For example, you might have your child take an inhaled, agonist beta 2 asthma medicine with 1 minute between puffs. Take puffs every five minutes if there’s no relief. If after 8 puffs there is no response, contact your health care provider.

Learn all you can about asthma and what you can do to improve the condition. This will help your child perform their normal activities.

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