Do you end up with wheezing, chough or other asthma symptoms after physical exertion? If so, you may be suffering from exercise induced asthma.
In some people, asthma is triggered exclusively by exercise and not by allergens like pollen. How does exercise bring on this condition?
Researchers point out to a number of contributing factors.
One reason is that the person may have greater than normal sensitivity to changes in temperature. It could also be that during exercise, breathing often becomes rapid and shallow, which may end up bringing more allergens into contact with lung tissues.
A third factor is that when breathing rapidly, air that reaches the lungs doesn’t have a chance to warm up sufficiently. When we breathe normally through our noses, the air that reaches the lungs warms up during the passage.
However, during exercise, the body has increased oxygen requirements. To meet it, we tend to breathe through the mouth. This doesn’t allow the air to warm up before it gets to the lungs.
Cool, dry air reaching the lungs can irritate the bronchial tubes and the trachea lining. When that happens, the body releases histamines which result in inflammation.
What can you do to reduce the risk of having an exercise induced asthma attack?
One of the best things to do is to use the bronchodilator inhaler prescribed by your doctor. Use it a quarter of an hour before exercising. This action by itself will significantly reduce the chances of an asthma attack.
Bronchodilators work by relaxing the muscles around the bronchial tubes. This cuts the chances of asthma being induced by changes in breathing patterns.
Warm up before starting on heavy exercise. This is anyway a good idea for a number of reasons not related to asthma. When you warm up, the body can better adjust to changes in breathing patterns. This reduces chances of asthma attacks. Also, ensure that you cool down after intensive exercise.
Since cold air is a major factor in triggering asthma, avoid exercising outdoors in cold weather. At the very least, use a face mask that covers your nose and mouth. Using a mask will trap warm, moist air near the nose and mouth so that the cold air can’t get directly into your lungs and trigger an attack.
Likewise, avoid outdoor exercise during pollen season. Rapid breathing during exercise can pump a lot of allergens into your lungs thus increasing your chances of coming down with an asthma attack.
Exercise induced asthma is no reason to avoid exercising, provided you take your doctor’s advice and follow some simple, sensible ground rules.