What Is Exercise-Induced Asthma?

September 26, 2022
Picture of a woman holding her hand to her chest while she's jogging.

Is it common for you to feel out of breath while exercising, no matter how physically fit you are? Do workouts usually cause you to cough, wheeze, or experience tightness within your chest? If so, you may have exercise-induced asthma. Also known as “exercise-induced bronchoconstriction,” this condition occurs when strenuous exercise causes the airways within the lungs to narrow. When this happens, it can produce symptoms including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Fatigue
  • Diminished athletic performance

These symptoms develop while exercising and may continue for at least an hour after stopping. If you have a young child with exercise-induced asthma, you may also notice that they tend to avoid strenuous activities.

What Can Cause Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Researchers are still working to determine exactly what causes exercise-induced asthma. With that being said, studies show that individuals with this condition often have inflammation, and many of them produce excess amounts of mucus after engaging in strenuous exercise.

Certain risk factors can increase a person’s chances of experiencing an exercise-induced asthma attack. For example, if you have this condition, you’re more likely to develop symptoms if you participate in activities requiring deep breathing for extended periods of time (e.g., cross country running) or if you inhale cold, dry air or chlorine fumes while exercising.

How Is Exercise-Induced Asthma Treated?

If you have exercise-induced asthma, it doesn’t mean that you need to give up on exercising completely (nor should you—after all, exercising is one of the most important things you can do for your health!). Many individuals with this condition are able to manage their symptoms by taking inhaled or oral medication, either on a daily basis or prior to exercising.

It’s important to note that in some instances, exercise-induced asthma can require immediate care. Make sure to call 911 or get to a nearby emergency room if you’re experiencing rapidly worsening shortness of breath or wheezing, or if using a prescription inhaler hasn’t provided any relief.

What Is the Difference Between Asthma & Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Like exercise-induced asthma, “regular” asthma involves the narrowing of the lung’s airways, which can cause difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, and chest pain/tightness. But while exercise-induced asthma is brought on by strenuous activity, regular asthma has various other potential triggers in addition to exercise, including:

  • Air pollution
  • Chemical fumes
  • Cold, dry air
  • Dust
  • Fragrances
  • Mold
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Smoke

There’s certainly a great deal of overlap between the two conditions—indeed, approximately 90% of those with regular asthma also experience exercise-induced asthma. However, it’s possible to have exercise-induced asthma without also having regular asthma, and vice versa.

Exercise-Induced Asthma Treatment Near You

If you think you might have exercise-induced asthma, you should consult with a trained medical provider. Fortunately, if you’re in Connecticut, Massachusetts, or New York, you can rely on PhysicianOne Urgent Care for treatment of your asthma flare-ups. Our experienced team will confirm your diagnosis and recommend the treatment approach that’s best suited to your needs.

Click here to find out if PhysicianOne Urgent Care has a location near you. All of our immediate care centers are open seven days per week with extended hours, and we’re pleased to offer walk-in treatment, pre-booked appointments, and 24/7 Virtual Visits.

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