People with exercise-induced asthma (EIA) may not be able to participate in physical activities if it is not properly controlled, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
About 20 million Americans suffer from asthma. In addition, many non- asthmatic patients, up to 13% of the population, experience asthma symptoms with exercise.”If someone is experiencing symptoms of EIA, it is important for them to be properly diagnosed by an allergist/immunologist to make sure it is not something more serious,” said Tim Craig, DO, FAAAAI, Chair of the AAAAI’s Sports Medicine Committee. “The physician will be able to treat the patient’s EIA with proper medications and will also address other issues to ensure the person can participate in sports and exercise to their fullest capacity.”EIA is caused by airways that are overly sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and humidity, especially when breathing colder, drier air. During physical activity, people tend to breathe through their mouths, allowing the cold, dry air to reach the lower airways without passing through the warming, humidifying effect of the nose.Symptoms of EIA include wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue. These symptoms can be controlled with proper medication and guidance from an allergist/immunologist.Inhaled medications taken prior to exercise are helpful in controlling and preventing exercise-induced bronchospasm. The medication of choice in preventing EIA symptoms is a short-acting beta 2 agonist bronchodilator spray used 15 minutes before exercise. These medications are effective in 80 to 90 percent of patients, have a rapid onset of action, and last for up to four to six hours. These drugs can also be used to relieve symptoms associated with EIA after they occur.In addition to medications, a warm-up period of activity before exercise may lessen the chest tightness that occurs after exertion. A warm-down period, including stretching and jogging after strenuous activity, may prevent air in the lungs from changing rapidly from cold to warm, and may prevent EIA symptoms that occur after exercise.When to see an allergy/asthma specialistThe AAAAI’s How the Allergist/Immunologist Can Help: Consultation and Referral Guidelines Citing the Evidence provides information to assist patients and health care professionals in determining when a patient may need consultation or ongoing specialty care by the allergist/immunologist. Patients should see an allergist/immunologist if they:– Have exercise-induced symptoms that are unusual or do not respond well to pre-treatment with albuterol, nedocromil, or cromolyn.– Have had exercise-induced anaphylaxis or food-dependent exercise- induced anaphylaxis.– Want to SCUBA dive and have a history of asthma.If you believe you may have EIA or have been diagnosed with EIA, talk to your allergist/immunologist about a personalized management plan for your EIA and begin exercising again. Many asthmatics have found that with proper medical treatment, they are able to reduce the symptoms of EIA.(Source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology : February 2007.)