Another name for exercise-induced asthma (EIA)–exercise-induced bronchoconstriction–is more descriptive of what your condition actually involves: The passages that carry air into and out of your lungs become constricted when you exercise, resulting in asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. These symptoms do not necessarily occur during exercise but usually begin within five to 20 minutes afterwards.

Fortunately, several strategies will permit you to exercise even if you have EIA:

  • Work out in the water (swimming or water aerobics) because humidity in the air you breathe will help prevent symptoms.
  • Avoid cold-weather sports because cold, dry air can trigger asthma attacks.
  • Participate in team games, which require only intermittent stretches of activity, instead of prolonged stretches of individual exercise.
  • Warm up at a moderate intensity before your usual exercise.

If these strategies do not reduce your EIA symptoms, medications may prevent their development. To open your lung passages in advance, your doctor may suggest that you use an inhaled bronchodilator before working out. A puff or two of albuterol (a short-acting beta-agonist) or of salmeterol (a long-acting
beta-agonist) with the corticosteroid fluticasone, for example, helps many people. If that is not sufficient, daily medication to keep your asthma under long-term control may work.

Another possibility is that specific allergens are causing or worsening your EIA. Talk to your doctor about whether this might be the case, and determine if allergy-desensitization injections might help. Given over the course of several years, such shots help your immune system react less violently to allergens.

In consultation with your physician, we will be happy to design workout routines that take both your fitness goals and your EIA into account.

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