Exercise induced asthma (EIA) or exercise induced bronchospasm (EIB) occurs in most children with asthma and may be the only recognizable symptom of asthma.
Children are more likely to have exercise induced asthma symptoms than adults. Symptoms are seen after dry, cool air enters the lungs during exercise and causes bronchospasm or narrowing of the airways. Air pollutants and environmental allergies may worsen EIA symptoms. The symptoms usually occur after several minutes of vigorous exercise but may be noted after the activity is completed.
What are the symptoms of exercise induced asthma?
Symptoms can be mild or severe and include:
- Shortness of breath
- Cough or wheezing
- Chest pain
- Chest tightness
- Problems keeping up with teammates or playmates
- Occasionally tiredness or dizziness
What is the treatment for exercise induced asthma?
The goal of treatment for EIA is to allow participation in physical activities without triggering asthma symptoms. Treatment is three-fold and includes medications, modified training techniques and monitoring.
- brionchodilators such as albuterol or salmeterol
- anti-inflammatory medications such as cromolyn sodium
- leukotriene modifiers such as montelukast are occasionally used
Modified Training Techniques:
- longer warm up and cool down periods
- breathing slowly through the nose or a scarf over the mouth
- pacing during activities
- learning how to induce a symptom free period for prolonged exercise; this can allow for a symptom free exercise time
- observation of environmental conditions, for example, use caution in any cold and dry air
- use of a peak flow meter to check airway obstruction and benefit of medications
What kind of exercise is best for asthmatics?
It is important to find an exercise that is enjoyed and feels "good". Most activities can be enjoyed with proper training, medications and monitoring.
- Very light or non-aerobic activity (walking, weight training) rarely results in EIA.
- Swimming is usually well tolerated because of breathing of warm, humidified air.
- Sports that have "down time" (baseball) or less spring running are often better tolerated.