Exercise Induced Asthma
What is asthma? Asthma is a chronic disease of lung inflammation. When the inflammation becomes
severe, the individual experiences an acute asthma attack.
The physiology of an acute asthma attack includes:
The main air passages of the lungs, the bronchial tubes, become irritated and then inflamed. The
airways become swollen and the internal diameter is smaller and makes breathing more difficult.
The muscles of the bronchial walls tighten and make the airways smaller.
Inflamed airways produce excess mucus which clogs the already narrowed openings.
What is exercised induced asthma? If a person coughs, wheezes or feels out of breath during or after
exercise, they may have exercise-induced asthma. Physical exertion may be the only thing that triggers the
symptoms or exercise may just be one of several things that trigger an asthma attack. The good news is that
exercise-induced asthma doesn't have to limit athletic goals — whether the aim is a weekly jog or elite
competition. Proper treatment can keep symptoms under control — and help students exercise as much as
Causes It isn't clear exactly what causes exercise-induced asthma,
and why some people get it and others don't.
All Asthma may be caused by the following factors:
An inherited tendency to develop allergies, called atopy (AT-o-pe)
Parents who have asthma
Certain respiratory infections during childhood
Contact with some airborne allergens or exposure to some viral infections in infancy or in early
childhood when the immune system is developing
Exercise asthma is triggered by drying or cooling of the airways during heavy breathing
and/or by chemicals produced by muscles when you exercise.
Factors that can worsen exercise-induced asthma include:
Air pollution such as smoke or smog
High pollen counts
Having a respiratory infection such as a cold
Being out of shape
Chemicals such as chlorine, paint, fertilizers or herbicides
Symptoms Signs and symptoms of exercise-induced asthma are the same as those caused by asthma
induced by other triggers. Common signs and symptoms, which occur during or after exercise, include:
Chest tightness or pain
Shortness of breath
Typically, signs and symptoms of exercise-induced asthma start after five to 15 minutes of
In some cases, signs and symptoms of exercise-induced asthma start after your workout is over.
Fatigue during exercise
Poor athletic performance
A long recovery time after exercise
Aerobic exercise, such as running or playing basketball, hockey or soccer, is more likely to trigger
exercise-induced asthma symptoms than is weightlifting, golfing or moderate-paced walking.
Warm up and cool down for at least 15 minutes before and after exercise.
Avoid exercising outdoors in extremely cold temperatures or when pollen levels are high.
Use a short-acting bronchodilator inhaler 15 minutes before exercise also may help prevent
If a student feels mild asthma symptoms coming on during a workout, have them try continuing their
activity if symptoms may remain mild.
If their doctor has prescribed an inhaler with a short-acting bronchodilator, have them pause and
inhale two puffs. They should breathe more easily within a few minutes. If the student does not get
better, stop exercising. Recurrent exercise-induced symptoms not relieved by a short-acting
bronchodilator may mean they need to change their medication.
Try to avoid colds and other respiratory infections. Have them refrain from strenuous
exercise when students have a cold.
Choose a humid exercise environment, such as a trail alongside a lake or stream or a
gym with an indoor pool.
Have student breathe through nose or through pursed lips as much as possible while
Have student wear a face mask during exercise.
Have student sit upright, slightly forward and do slow breathing.
Ask if the student is currently taking medications.
Have they used their inhaler? How many times? If emergency medication is available and has not
yet been administered, have the student use the inhaler, continue to monitor for 15-20 minutes.
Is their inhaler (Albuterol) available at school? If they have not used inhaler ask where is
your inhaler? (Have a liaison retrieve)
Give student some water if they can swallow the liquid.
Call a campus liaison to transport student to the health office.
Reassure student, keep him/her calm and reiterate deep, slow breathing.
If no improvement radio for 911 to be called.
DANGER SIGNS Trouble walking and talking due to shortness of breath, lips or fingernails are blue