Five Facts about Exercise-Induced Asthma

What Is Exercise-Induced Asthma (EIA)?

Exercise-induced asthma is when respiratory muscles get constricted or spasmed due to strenuous or prolonged exercise. It can lead to further narrowing of the airways, causing shortening of breath. 

EIA is most common among people who already have chronic asthma problems. However, many people without chronic asthma can also experience symptoms of Exercise-induced asthma. It is a prevalent condition as it affects approximately 15% of the population of America. 

What causes Exercise-Induced Asthma?

In reality, EIA is caused by the change in humidity and temperature of air we inhale. In normal conditions, we breathe through our noses. Thus, when we inhale air first, it gets warm and humid by nasal passage. 

However, during exercise, we often breathe via our mouth. In this way, we inhale cold and dry air. Thus, sensitive muscle bands around the airways get affected by this change and show a reaction in the form of contraction, which ultimately narrows the airways, and there appear symptoms of asthma. Symptoms of EIA include coughing, tightening of the chest, wheezing, and shortening of breath. 

Facts about Exercise-Induced Asthma:

1. Exercise is not the Actual Cause of Asthma:

Exercise-Induced Asthma is also called Exercise-Induced Bronchospasm (EIB). It is a misconception that EIA is caused by exercise. However, the truth is that exercise doesn’t cause asthma; it aggravates asthma in people already who have chronic asthma. 

Therefore, if you are not a chronic asthma patient but experience breathing issues while exercising, you must go for a checkup. Immediately consult with a doctor, who can confirm the diagnosis after a proper checkup and prescribe you medicines or plan to reduce the asthma symptoms.

2. You can diagnose Exercise-Induced Asthma in various ways:

EIA is often diagnosed based on symptoms appearing during and after a workout. There are two common symptoms, including shortening of breath and wheezing. Most commonly, the symptoms appear within ten minutes of an aerobic exercise, and these can stay for more than two hours after completion of the exercise.

Exercise-Induced Asthma is often interlinked with the weather. For instance, symptoms get worse during cold and dry seasons. Furthermore, specific allergens and pollen can also trigger the EIA. For diagnosis, your health provider will measure the lungs’ capacity before, during, and after the exercise. 

3. Pharmacologic treatments are available:

The pharmacological treatments that are available for the treatment of Exercise-Induced Asthma include, 

  • Hand-held inhaler:

These inhalers are commonly prescribed treatment for the EIA containing albuterol. Albuterol is a muscle-relaxing chemical that relaxes the muscles around the airways and allows patients to breathe comfortably.

  • Long-lasting bronchodilators:

These inhalers are a mixture of a long-acting beta-agonist bronchodilator and an inhaled steroid, e.g., Advair and Dulera. Their effect lasts for about twelve hours.

  • Steroid inhalers: 

Steroid inhalers are also known as corticosteroid inhalers. These are anti-inflammatory sprays or tablets which reduce the swelling of airways. Examples of inhalable steroid inhalers are Fluticasone, Budesonide, etc.

4. Non-Pharmacological remedies for EIA:

There are several practices through which you can reduce the risk of Exercise-Induced Asthma without medicines. For instance,

  • Do a five-minute warmup before a prolonged and intense workout.
  • Try to breathe through the nose as it can help warm and moisturize the air before reaching the lungs. 
  • Wear a facemask during exercise to prevent direct breathing of cold and dry air.
  • It will be better to exercise during warmer times of the day.

5. It’s Essential to Recognize Red Flags:

In some cases, EIA can trigger an asthma attack. In such conditions, albuterol or other inhalers don’t remain effective. Therefore, immediately seek a medical emergency if you experience any following symptoms. For example,

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Extreme chest congestion
  • Dreadful wheezing
  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Blue lips or nails
  • Difficulty in speaking


Exercise is not one of the causes of asthma. However, it can exacerbate the asthma symptoms in patients with chronic asthma. Nevertheless, we should not make an excuse to exercise due to Exercise-Induced Asthma. With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can enjoy the benefits of exercise without experiencing asthma symptoms. 

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