Treatment for Exercise-Induced Asthma

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Exercise is good for your health, but when you wheeze or cough following exertion, you might have exercise-induced asthma. You might have asthma symptoms only when you exercise with high intensity or in cold weather. Sometimes, cold dry air acts as an irritant for sensitive lungs. With proper medication, you can control the symptoms of exercise-induced asthma and continue your exercise regimen.


Basics

Asthma is an allergic condition of the lungs. MayoClinic.com says that allergens or irritants, such as pollution, causes an excess production of mucus and tightening of the airways. When you exercise, more air passes through the lungs, and more irritants enter. You usually feel breathless or wheeze and cough about 10 minutes after finishing a workout, but you might have symptoms during exertion as well. It is important to see a doctor who will examine you and prescribe medication to control symptoms and avoid asthma attacks.

Short-Term Relief

Medications that relax constricted air passages provide fast relief for asthma attacks. Albuterol and levalbuterol among others are beta-agonists. Beta-agonists interact with the beta-adrenergic receptors in your pulmonary airways and relax and expand them, according to the Merck website You inhale the medication using a specialized applicator, which supplies single doses. Taking a puff or two of the medication before exercise help prevent asthma attacks. Beta-agonists also act as emergency inhalers, for acute asthma attacks. The only disadvantage of these medications is that they only act for a short time. You might need longer acting medications if they do not totally take care of your symptoms.

Long-Term Prevention

Treating the inflammation of the airways is important in preventing asthma attacks before they occur. Long-term treatments include long-term beta-agonists and inhaled corticosteroids. The steroids prevent attacks by lowering inflammation and lowering your reaction to irritants and exercise.

Side Effects

Long-term beta-agonists sometimes cause side effects, including worsening asthma attacks. MayoClinic.com says that using a combination inhaler that uses both corticosteroids and beta-agonists is safer. Large amounts of corticosteroids lead to health problems including weight gain, but the smaller amounts in disk-type inhaler medications do not cause side effects in most users.

Considerations

Intense cardiovascular exercise, such as running, is more likely to cause an attack than moderate activities, such as walking or weight lifting, according to MayoClinic.com. Indoor swimming pools pose potential health risks for swimmers with sensitive lungs. Chlorine disinfection byproducts build up inside pool enclosures, causing lung irritation and asthma symptoms in frequent swimmers, according to Mary Pohlmann, M.D., and member of the U.S. Masters Sports Medicine Committee, in an article for “Swimmer” magazine.

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