Exercise induced asthma, also known as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction or exercise asthma, is a common condition. The condition involves coughing, breathing tightness and wheezing during and/or after exercise. Most people with asthma have at least some trouble with exercise induced asthma. However, some people with exercise-induced asthma don’t have asthma at other times.

With exercise, breathing becomes faster (and deeper), depending on the intensity of the exercise. This leads to dryness in the breathing tubes in the lungs, drying of secretions and causes temporary tightening of muscles that surround the breathing tubes in the lungs. These changes lead to the breathing tightness, cough and wheeze that we see with exercise induced asthma. In addition to this, people with chronic asthma that is not well-controlled, will often notice more symptoms with exercise. This is due to the above changes. Also, poor asthma control at baseline makes the breathing tubes more “twitchy” so that less irritation is required to cause breathing trouble. Exercising in cold or dry air is even more problematic.

The good news is that in most people, symptoms of exercise induced asthma can be prevented with the right treatment. In fact, exercise induced asthma can be so well-treated that people typically do not need to have any limitation in activity or exercise, and even participate in professional and Olympic sports. You and your physician will create a management plan that allows you to continue doing the activities you love.

If you have questions about exercise induced asthma, contact an allergist or your primary care doctor.