Adult & Pediatric Allergy of Northern Virginia
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What Is Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) causes a person to experience breathing
difficulties after strenuous exertion. In both adults and children, the
symptoms of this condition include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness,
fatigue, and shortness of breath. They usually appear within eight to twelve
minutes after exercise begins, reaching a peak five to ten minutes after
exercising. In children, EIA symptoms often appear as coughing during or
after exercising, and/or as abdominal pain during exercise.

What Causes Exercise-Induced Asthma?

This condition occurs in people whose airways are acutely sensitive to
sudden changes in temperature and humidity. During strenuous exercise,
people usually breathe through their mouth rather than their nose; this
allows cold dry air to reach the lower airway and lungs. In addition to
mouth-breathing, such things as air pollution, high levels of pollen, and
respiratory infections are also factors in EIA.
Studies have shown that 80% of all asthmatics will experience EIA
symptoms during or after exercise, while 40% of all people with nasal
allergies may experience asthma symptoms during exercise.

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Does Exercise-Induced Asthma Affect Only Serious Athletes?

Although EIA is more prevalent among Olympic athletes than among the
general population, this condition is not limited to athletes. School-age
children who participate in physical education classes and play sports are
also susceptible. Even those who engage in non-athletic, but strenuous
activities (for example, yard work and shoveling snow) may experience
breathing difficulties after a period of exertion. In both children and
adults, the more subtle symptoms of EIA are often missed when people
mistakenly blame reluctance to participate in sports or poor athletic
performance on being out of shape.

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Can Someone With Exercise-Induced Asthma Exercise And Play Sports?

A diagnosis of EIA does not mean a person must give up all strenuous
physical activity. An allergist can prescribe inhaled and/or oral
medications that, taken before exercising, will help control and prevent
EIA. In addition, the doctor will explain to the patient (and, if necessary,
to teachers and coaches) how a combination of proper training and medication
can alleviate the symptoms of this condition. With appropriate diagnosis and
treatment, a person with EIA can continue to reap the benefits of physical
exercise and even excel in sports.

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What is exercise-induced asthma?

What causes exercise-induced asthma?

Does exercise-induced asthma affect only serious athletes?

Can someone with exercise-induced asthma exercise and play sports?