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Exercise-induced Asthma: Signs a Workout leads to Wheezing

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Mar 30, 2023

    Exercise-induced Asthma: Signs a Workout leads to Wheezing

    Exercise promises a lot of overall health benefits. But did you know that it can also be a cause of your flaring asthma? Yes, exercise-induced asthma is a real thing. And it is the most underrated and under-diagnosed.

    So, how do you figure out that your workout is actually making you wheeze? How do you identify exercise-induced asthma symptoms?

    What Is Exercise-Induced Asthma?

    Though we have talked about it, to know its symptoms and delve further into it, let’s first understand what exercise-induced asthma is. It is a type of asthma wherein workout or exercise is a trigger for an attack.

    It causes the typical asthma symptoms, albeit on a higher scale, such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and the likes. A major thing that happens during exercise-induced asthma is the narrowing of the airways, a condition also known as bronchoconstriction.

    However, the good thing is that you can still continue to work out despite having exercise-induced asthma. You only need to be cautious and create a routine medication system with the help of your doctor.

    Know the Symptoms

    The symptoms of exercise induced asthma are quite similar to normal asthma. The only difference is that while there are various triggers that can induce an asthma attack, exercise, and physical exertion is the major trigger for exercise-induced.

    Some of the symptoms of exercise-induced asthma are:

    • Wheezing
    • Coughing
    • Chest tightness
    • Chest pain
    • Declining athletic performance
    • Exercise fatigue
    • Shortness of breath
    • Sore throat or nausea
    • Weather change worsens your condition

    An additional trait in children can be their sudden reluctance or repellence towards physical activities. That should set the warning bells ringing in your head.

    All the above symptoms would be visible post-workout.

    Apart from the symptoms, there are also a few triggers to exercise-induced asthma that you should be aware of. These are:

    • Cold or dry air
    • Air pollution
    • Swimming pools’ chlorine content
    • Exercises that involve deep breathing, such as swimming or long-distance races

    In most of the cases, one or more of these symptoms start showing up within five (5) to twenty 20 minutes of exercising. If the situation is consistent with your sessions, it is imperative to consult a doctor. Chances are it might be exercise-induced asthma.

    However, it can even be a serious mimic such as a cardiac arrest. In either case, it is essential that you recognize the red flags and consult a doctor before it worsens.

    What to Do if You Have Exercise-Induced Asthma

    For starters, consult a doctor, as we have said time and again. Even if the doctor has not made a diagnosis, this would be a good time to find out if you have asthma, especially when you have been showing the symptoms.

    The doctor will create a workout plan along with a medication and lifestyle routine, which makes it extremely feasible for the asthma patient to lead a normal life replete with the workout.

    This would mostly include using an inhaler before your workout sessions, as prescribed and advised by the doctor, which helps you sustain more and lessen the chances of asthma triggers due to exertion.

    There are three types of medicines that doctors usually recommend for patients with exercise-induced asthma:

    • Cromolyn sodium. Intake should be 15-20 minutes before you start your exercise. This is more of a preventive measure and not the actual cure once symptoms start appearing.
    • A long-acting bronchodilator is advised to be taken 1-2 hours before starting the workout and it can control exercise-induced asthma symptoms for over 12 hours. Again, this is for relief and prevention, and not the actual cure.
    • Short-acting bronchodilators can be taken 10-15 minutes before the exercise. Unlike its long-acting counterpart, this one controls the symptoms up to 4 hours. However, this one can treat and reverse the symptoms as well.

    Apart from these, you can take certain steps as a precautionary measure. For instance, you can use masks or scarves that will protect you from the allergens and irritants.

    You can also indulge in a proper warm-up before going full throttle. This will make sure you will not surprise your body, thus preventing an asthma trigger. Also, make it a point to note and record your respiratory status, before and after the exercise.

    Sports: Yes or No?

    Fortunately, yes! Exercise-induced asthma patients can surely take part in sports and indulge in exercises if they take precautions and pay heed to the lifestyle and routine curated by their doctors.

    However, it would be advised to skip sports that are played in harsh weather conditions, such as ice hockey, snowboarding, and more. Sports that require short bursts of breathing are recommended as they do not trigger asthma attacks. These include sports to the likes of cricket, volleyball, leisure biking, and even swimming in a warm environment.

    One can enjoy being a sportsperson, athlete, or just an exercise buff, even with exercise induced asthma. They only need to be cautious and their asthma can be managed well. If one makes sure that they follow what their doctor says, then they can very much play certain sports and exercise. However, excessive of anything is not good for health and that should be kept in mind.

    Do you have an action plan for exercise-induced asthma? How do you deal with it? Do let us know in the comments. Our community believes in sharing and spreading knowledge, and yours would be a perfect addition.

    Learn more asthma management tips here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Mar 30, 2023

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