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Exercise-Induced Asthma (EIA)

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This information was reviewed and approved by David Tinkelman, MD (3/31/2012).

When exercise causes asthma symptoms, this is called exercise-induced asthma. The triggering events in exercise-induced asthma are believed to be rapid breathing and airway cooling associated with vigorous exercise. Sports most likely to trigger exercise-induced asthma are those involving vigorous and continuous play (for example, basketball, long-distance running, competitive tennis), and those played in cold, dry air (for example, cross-country skiing).

Exercise-induced asthma can occur in almost anyone, but it is most common in people-especially children-who already have persistent asthma associated with exposure to allergens such as animal dander, dust mites and molds.

Anyone who experiences asthma symptoms after exercise or vigorous physical activity should consult a physician. Tests performed under the physician's supervision can tell if asthma is exercise-induced. Once identified, exercise-induced asthma can be treated to prevent asthma symptoms after exercise.

Treatment and monitoring can allow people with exercise-induced asthma to participate fully in the physical activity or exercise of their choice.


Research shows everyone can benefit greatly from physical exercise in terms of self-esteem and stress relief. When asthma is well controlled, people with exercise-induced asthma should be able to participate in any sport. In fact, it is estimated that exercise-induced asthma affects one in ten athletes. Sports or activities with short bursts of exercise are least likely to cause asthma symptoms. Since these activities are followed by or interspersed with brief rest periods, they can allow the person to regain control of their breathing. Baseball, softball, volleyball, tennis, downhill skiing, golf and some track and field events all have brief rest periods. Sports that require continuous activity like swimming, cycling, distance running and soccer also can be enjoyed by people with exercise-induced asthma. Participation in any sport often requires use of a pre-treatment before exercise and close monitoring. Along with this, a good warm-up and cool-down period are often helpful.

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