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Exercise-Induced Asthma: Symptoms & Diagnosis

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This information was reviewed and approved by David Tinkelman, MD (4/1/2012).

For some people, exercise-induced asthma occurs within three to eight minutes of starting activity or exercise, and for others it occurs shortly after stopping exercise. Often the exercise-induced asthma starts during exercise and worsens when exercise stops. The most common symptoms of exercise-induced asthma whenever they occur are:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness



Some people are not aware of asthma symptoms but know they tire easily and have a hard time keeping up with others. It is important to recognize the difference between poor conditioning and exercise-induced asthma. In well-conditioned athletes, symptoms of exercise-induced asthma may only occur with the most vigorous activity or exercise. In order to discern the difference, think about how you feel when you exercise. Do you tire easily, cough, wheeze or feel a tightness in your chest? Share this information with your healthcare provider.

  • Your healthcare provider will ask you questions about your asthma and do a physical exam.

  • He or she may also order a test called an exercise challenge to measure exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, which helps diagnose exercise-induced asthma.

  • An exercise challenge may be done in your doctor's office or the hospital. During an exercise challenge, you will walk or run on a treadmill or ride an exercise bicycle and perform repeated breathing tests.

Using this information, your healthcare provider will be able to understand if exercise can make your asthma symptoms worse.

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