For some people who have asthma, exercise can exacerbate these symptoms; other people who don’t normally have asthma may experience these symptoms when they exercise.
Several factors can trigger exercise-induced asthma. People with exercise-induced asthma are more sensitive to temperature changes and the humidity in the air. Breathing through the mouth during exercise can also trigger an asthma attack, as well as sports and games that require continuous activity (rather than sports that require short bursts of activity interspersed with breaks).
Symptoms typically begin 5-20 minutes after exercise is started and can include coughing, wheezing, tightness of the chest, prolonged shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. After exercise is stopped, symptoms peak for about 5-10 minutes, then gradually diminish.
While asthma cannot be cured, it can be controlled—permitting patients to have an active lifestyle. Take medications as directed by your health-care provider (but do not take more medication than you are instructed to take). Avoid cough medicines (which don’t relieve asthma symptoms and could cause serious side effects). Also, do not take aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen without advice from your health-care provider.
Inhaling quick relief medications 5-30 minutes before exercise can help control asthma symptoms that may occur. Warming up before and cooling off after exercise can also help prevent asthma symptoms from occurring. In addition, you should avoid exercising if you have an upper respiratory illness (e.g., cold, flu or bronchitis), during extremely cold weather, and during conditions when an allergic reaction could be triggered (e.g., high pollen count or high pollution index).
You should see your doctor as soon as you learn that you are susceptible to exercise-induced asthma. Your doctor will help you develop an action plan to help prevent and respond to asthma symptoms. If you have an asthma attack during exercise and begin to experience severe shortness of breath, you should have a friend or family member drive you to your health-care provider or the nearest hospital emergency department. If you are alone, call 911 for emergency medical assistance. Asthma can be a life threatening emergency and you should seek immediate medical care!