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asthma attack is a short period when breathing becomes
difficult, sometimes along with chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing. When
this happens during or after exercise, it is known as exercise-induced asthma
or exercise-induced bronchospasm. About 70 to 90 out of 100 people who have persistent
asthma and about 10 out of 100 people who do not have asthma have exercise-induced
asthma.1, 2 Exercise-induced
asthma develops most often in athletes, especially those who train or perform
in cold air. Swimming appears to cause the fewest problems for children who have
asthma. Swimming may even help reduce the severity of exercise-induced
For most people:
Exercise-induced asthma is often not diagnosed, especially in
children. Most experts agree that a medical history and a physical exam are not
accurate tools for diagnosing exercise-induced asthma. If you notice the
symptoms of asthma (such as wheezing or shortness of breath) after your child
exercises, be sure to tell your doctor.
Children who have asthma should still be encouraged to exercise. And they should not be
excused from exercise unless that is really needed.
For people who have
asthma symptoms during exercise, using asthma-controlling medicine before
exercise may help reduce symptoms, especially in cold, dry weather. For these
people, some asthma experts recommend the following:4
Other steps you can take to reduce asthma symptoms when you
exercise include the following:
If your child has exercise-induced asthma, be sure his or her
teachers and coaches know when your child's daily medicines should be given and
what to do if your child has an
asthma attack, especially before and during physical
exercise. Your child's asthma action plan provides this information. School
officials need to know the early warning signs of an asthma episode, how your
child's medicines are used, and how to give the medicines. School personnel
also should know how to contact your child's doctor.
Sheth KK (2003). Activity-induced asthma.
Pediatric Clinics of North America, 50(3):
Mickleborough TD, Gotshall RW (2003). Dietary
components with demonstrated effectiveness in decreasing the severity of
exercise-induced asthma. Sports Medicine, 33(9):
Rosimini R (2003). Benefits of swim training for
children and adolescents with asthma. Journal of the American Academy of Nurses, 15(6): 247–252.
National Institutes of Health (2007). National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (NIH
Publication No. 08–5846). Available online:
Current as of:
January 22, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology
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