Do you cough, wheeze and have a tight chest or shortness of breath when you exercise?
If you have EIB, you may have problems breathing within five to 20 minutes after exercise. Your symptoms may include:
• Tight chest
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain (rarely)
People with EIB are very sensitive to both low temperatures and dry air. Air is usually warmed and humidified by the nose, but during demanding activity people breathe more through their mouths. This allows cold, dry air to reach your lower airways and your lungs without passing through your nose, triggering asthma symptoms. Air pollutants, high pollen levels and viral respiratory infections may also be triggers. Other causes of symptoms with exercise may be that you are out of shape, have poorly controlled nasal allergies or vocal chord issues.
If your breathing test is normal, you may be asked to take an additional test, called a bronchoprovocation challenge test. Your physician will have you exercise in the sport you play, run outside, or have you cycle or run on a treadmill. Before and after the exercise, your physician will test the amount of air you force out of your lungs with a spirometry test. If you exhale air less forcefully after exercise, then the problem may be EIB.
The first step is to develop a treatment plan with your physician. EIB associated with more generalized asthma is prevented with controller medications taken regularly (such as mast cell stabilizers, inhaled steroids and leukotriene modifiers) or by using medicines before you exercise (short-acting beta-agonists such as albuterol). When EIB symptoms occur, they can be treated with short-acting beta-agonists.
In addition to medications, warm-ups and cool-downs may prevent or lessen EIB symptoms. You may want to limit exercise when you have a viral infection, temperatures are low, or pollen and air pollution levels are high.