Reducing Episodes and Symptoms of Exercise-Induced Asthma
- Perform warm up and cool down exercises.
- Avoid exercising in polluted environments.
- Limit or avoid exercising when you are acutely ill.
- If you have environmental allergies, pay attention to pollen counts. Avoid exercising outside when pollen counts are high
- Avoid outdoor exercise when it is frigid outside. If you still choose to exercise, keep your mouth and nose covered with a scarf.
- Exercise at an intensity which is comfortable for you.
- As much as possible, breathe through your nose when exercising
Preventing and Controlling Exercise-Induced Asthma with Medication
Once you’ve been diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma, it is time for your physician to find the best way to treat it! After all, if you’re coughing and wheezing, it is likely that you’re not exercising efficiently, right?
Your physician may choose to prescribe medication before exercising or a daily medication for control (especially if you exercise regularly.
Let’s look a bit more closely at the options.
Medications that you can take before exercise to prevent bronchoconstriction from occurring may include:
- Short-acting beta agonists (SABAs) are the most commonly used pre-exercise medication. They should not be used daily, because your body can build a tolerance to these medications. They work by opening the airways. Examples include albuterol (ProAir HFA, Proventil HFA, Ventolin HFA), levalbuterol (Xopenex HFA), and pirbuterol (Maxair).
- Ipratropium (Atrovent HFA) relaxes the airways. A generic option is available that can be used in a nebulizer.
Long-term medications (used with the short-acting medications) help to treat underlying asthma as well as symptoms that are resistant to pre-exercise treatment. These medications include:
- Inhaled corticosteroids reduce inflammation in the airways. Unlike the short-acting medications, these types of inhalers can take several weeks to become effective. Examples include fluticasone (Flovent Diskus, Flovent HFA), budesonide (Pulmicort Flexhaler), mometasone (Asmanex Twisthaler), and beclomethasone (Qvar).
- Combination inhalers contain a corticosteroid and a long-acting beta-agonist (LABA), which also relaxes the airways. They can be used as a long-term inhaler, but also before exercise. Examples include mometasone and formoterol (Dulera), budenoside and formoterol (Symbicort), and fluticasone and salmeterol (Advair Diskus).
- Leukotriene modifiers are an oral medication that can “block” inflammatory activity in the body that can cause asthma symptoms. They should be taken at least two hours before exercise. Examples include montelukast (Singulair), zafirlukast (Accolate), and zileuton (Ziflo).
Can Exercise-Induced Asthma Go Away?
Not really. Typically, as with asthma in general, if you have asthma, it is something that must be managed. There may be times in your life when your symptoms wax and wane, but it is likely a lifelong disease.
As we’ve already discussed, exercise-induced asthma can be prevented using the proper treatment. You can prevent it with the medications that we’ve already discussed; a physician must prescribe these medications.
It is also good practice to warm-up before exercise, as well as “cool down” after exercising. This can help your lungs “get ready” for exercise, as well as get them ready to slow down – both of why can help them relax. It is also a good idea to limit exercise on days when the pollen count is high, when the air temperature is low, and when the air pollution is high. All of these conditions can worsen exercise-induced asthma.
You may wonder – should you exercise when you are sick? Probably not. It is best to check with your physician, but if you have exercise-induced asthma, exercising may increase your symptoms.
Is It Asthma or Am I Just Out of Shape?
This is a question only your physician can answer for you! Regardless of your physical shape, you could still have asthma. People of all shapes and sizes have exercise-induced asthma – everyone from Olympic athletes to people who are obese.
Don’t let your physical condition stop you from exercising. Proper management of your symptoms can get you active again.
Certain activities may be better than others for people with exercise-induced asthma. Exercises that involve short bursts of activity are generally better tolerated – examples include volleyball, gymnastics, walking, wrestling, and baseball.
Exercises that involve endurance may not be as well tolerated. Examples include running, basketball, hockey, and soccer. Cold-weather sports can also worsen symptoms, such as skiing and ice skating.
What about swimming? Although it is an endurance sport, it is better tolerated than the others on the list because it is practiced in a warm, humid climate.
If your chosen sport is on the “not tolerated” list, don’t let that deter you! Get to your physician’s office and come up with an asthma action plan. You can also try a new sport!
The Bottom Line…
If you’ve been diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma, don’t let it deter you from staying active and pursuing your activity goals. Make an appointment with your physician so that you can receive treatment… and above all, stay moving!