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Exercise-Induced Asthma: Treatment & Monitoring

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This information was reviewed and approved by Ann Mullen, RN, CNS, AE-C, CDE, TTS (1/1/2019).

  • Pre-treatment
    There is a simple and typically very effective way of treating exercise-induced asthma called a "pre-treatment." A pre-treatment is a medicine that is often prescribed to be inhaled 10 to 15 minutes before exercise which quickly open the airways to prevent asthma symptoms. By using a prescribed pre-treatment, people with asthma are often able to participate safely and successfully in the exercise they enjoy. Examples of inhaled medicines often used as a pre-treatment include:

    • Proventil®, Proventil HFA®, Ventolin® (albuterol)
    • Xopenex® (levalbuterol)


  • Technique
    Regardless of which inhaled medicine you use, it is important to use good technique. Good technique helps you get the full dosage and benefit from the medicine. Using a spacer device with your metered-dose-inhaler can improve delivery of the medicine to your airways. Review your inhaled medicine technique with your healthcare provider at your next visit. If your asthma symptoms are occurring more often with exercise or are more severe talk with your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may increase the medicine you take every day (long-term control medicine) to get your asthma under better control.



In many situations physical education teachers, coaches and employers may be confused about asthma and exercise or physical activity - some may prohibit people from participation while others may push those with asthma to keep up with their peers without proper monitoring or treatment. A peak flow meter combined with monitoring asthma symptoms can help take the confusion out of this situation. A peak flow meter is a portable, hand-held device that measures how fast you blow air out. When the airways are narrowed by asthma, the peak flow number will drop. A significant drop in your peak flow number and/or asthma symptoms is a signal that you need extra medicine or maybe a short rest during exercise. It can provide an objective way to make decisions about participation in sports, gym class, recess or other activities.


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