Exercise-Induced Asthma

Physical activity is especially important for people with asthma. Physical activity improves our lung capacity and blood flow and is calming, fulfilling and fun.

However, for many people with asthma, physical activity can trigger symptoms such as wheezing, tightness of the chest, or coughing during or after exercise. Some people may attribute this to aging or a lack of fitness, but they might have poorly controlled asthma or exercise-induced asthma (EIA).

Most breathlessness with exercise is due to asthma that is not well-controlled. This poorly controlled asthma with narrowed airways is more noticeable when people exercise. However, some people have true exercise-induced asthma where the exercise is actually causing the airway narrowing, rather than simply making it noticeable.

The good news is that it is easy to find out if you have EIA. Ask your healthcare practitioner or Asthma Society for a peak flow meter. Take your peak flow reading before and after exercise. If your peak flow rate drops 20% after exercise, then you have EIA. Using your reliever inhaler 5 to 15 minutes before exercise can make exercise possible.

What causes it?

Researchers believe that the cool air you breathe when you exercise dries the lining of your breathing tubes.

This triggers your breathing tubes to spasm and become tight. Some people who get EIA end up avoiding activity, rather than managing their asthma effectively.

EIA doesn’t need to slow you down. Almost everyone with asthma can lead an active life. If you can’t exercise without experiencing asthma symptoms, see your healthcare practitioner.

Remember that being physically active is an important part of your asthma management, and shouldn’t be avoided. Once your asthma is well-managed, you should be able to exercise without symptoms.