What is Exercise-Induced Asthma?

In this video by National Jewish Health in Denver, asthma expert Brian Modena, MD, explains exercise-induced asthma and describes how is it diagnosed and treated.


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Dr. Brian Modena: Exercise induced asthma is asthma that occurs after the start of exercise.

It typically happens in the first 15 minutes of exercise.

It's caused, we believe, by drying of the airways.

You start breathing more quickly.

You lose moisture and the airway dries.

They then close up or get narrow.

It causes symptoms of asthma.

Typically, we think of exercise induced asthma often is uncontrolled asthma, so there's many people that have asthma that's uncontrolled.

Then it's just worsened or exacerbated by exercise.

There's also patients where they only have exercise induced asthma.

Their asthma's well controlled.

They don't have problems.

They start exercising and they start having symptoms.

Typically it's in the first couple of minutes to 15 minutes of exercising.

The individual will start feeling chest tightness, like difficulty breathing in and out.

They'll start coughing, wheezing.

Whatever they're doing, they feel like they're not able to do it the best that they can.

The difference between exercise induced asthma and just exertional shortness of breath is that exercise induced asthma often persists.

10-15 minutes later, the individual is still coughing, wheezing, having difficulty breathing until they use their albuterol rescue medications.

They use their albuterol, they instantly feel better.

A response to the rescue medication or albuterol also is very important to show that you have exercise induced asthma.

There is exercise testing you can do to verify exercise-induced asthma.

Meaning, that you can bring someone in, you can do exercise testing on them, and then repeat a spirometry and do other physiological testing to verify the diagnosis.

The most important part of exercise induced asthma is warming up.

There's about a 15 minute window where if you do a light warm up, as you start to exercise more, the airways open up naturally.

The second thing is that you can use your albuterol or your rescue inhaler prior to exercise.

Two puffs 30 minutes before you're exercising will also help treat asthma before it happens.

You're in the middle of exercising an hour or two later and you're having symptoms, you can repeat the use of the albuterol.

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