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Exercise Induced Asthma

Posted on: Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Exercise Induced Asthma

There are many different types of Asthma with varying causes. Different types of Asthma include allergic asthma, cough-variant asthma, occupational asthma, nocturnal asthma and exercise induced asthma. Asthma affects approximately 470,000 people in Ireland alone which would equate to one in 10 Adults and more worrying one in 5 children.

Asthma is a long term lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. The airways are tubes that carry the air through to the lungs. The inflammation caused by asthma causes swollen and sensitive airways. This causes the muscles around the airways to tighten and restrict air flow into the lungs making breathing increasingly difficult.  Asthma and inflammation of the airways can be caused by a number of factors including allergies, parents who have asthma, certain respiratory infections that occur during childhood, exposure to airborne irritants such as dust or smoke and vigorous and prolonged exercise.

Asthma caused by vigorous and prolonged exercise is known as exercise induced asthma and is probably one of the most common forms of asthma in children. In exercise induced asthma the airways are sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity. During normal breathing we take warm moistened air through our nasal passage or nose. When we exercise we often breathe through our mouth inhaling colder dryer air. This cold dry air reacts with the airways causing them to contract and narrow.

Signs & symptoms of exercise induced asthma:

Coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath caused by exercise are the most common signs and symptoms of exercise induced asthma. These symptoms usually start within 5 to 20 mins of activity and often resolve within 5 to 10 mins after exercise has finished.  It is important to note that not all people who have asthma have these symptoms and having these symptoms does not always mean that you suffer from asthma. The best way to diagnose asthma for certain is to attend to your physiotherapist or doctor for lung function tests, to establish a clear and concise history and have a detailed medical examination which may include listening to your chest with a stethoscope know as chest auscultations.

Treatment of exercise induced asthma:

The most important part of treating any asthma condition is to control the disease before it becomes problematic. The asthma society of Ireland recommends preventative treatment measures such as keeping your bodyweight under control, smoking cessation, check for allergies, use your inhalers and medications correctly and educate and understand your condition.  Even if you suffer from exercise induced asthma it doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t exercise regularly.  Some inhalers or bronchodilators prior to exercise can help prevent exercise induced asthma as can some medications such as albuterol or cromolyn. In addition to taking preventative medications warming up and cooling down before and after exercise is recommended and avoidance of exercising when pollen or pollution levels are high and temperatures low. Exercise that involves short intense bursts or activity are best recommended compared to activities that involve long periods of exertion such as long distance running, soccer or basketball.

Children and exercise induced asthma:

Evidence shows that exercise is good for everyone including children and young people with Asthma. Although encouraging your child to exercise when they suffer from exercise induced asthma can be a daunting task there are a few easy steps you can take to reduce your child’s risk of an attack. Make sure they always have their reliever inhaler (usually blue) with them at all times. Get your child into a good routine of taking their preventative medications as early education is very important for the future management of your child’s asthma. Take your child to an asthma review clinic every six months and make sure you and your child is familiar with their asthma action plan in case of an attack. Make sure your child recognises the symptoms of an asthma attack, when to use their inhaler and when to call 999. Speak to their teacher or local coach about your child’s asthma so they warm up and cool down and feel comfortable to take a break from physical exercise when appropriate.

How can your Physiotherapist help?

DBC physiotherapy Naas can help you control your asthma condition through weight management and smoking cessation courses as well as advice and supervision on the most appropriate type of exercise to keep you fit without provoking an attack. In patients with moderate to severe asthma your physiotherapist can teach you various coughing, breathing and positioning techniques to help clear secretions and improve breathing.  Your physiotherapist can also help you improve your inhaler technique, use your medications correctly and help you devise a self-management plan.