A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Asthma and exercise: Do they mix?

Woman stretching preparing to exerciseAsthma is a chronic problem that affects the lungs and can make breathing difficult.

It’s a constriction or narrowing of the airways from inflammation caused by some sort of trigger or allergen, such as pet hair or dander, dust mites, mold, strong odors, pollens, colds or infections, weather or exercise.

Asthma symptoms can include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Painful breathing

Exercise can trigger asthma

Coughing and wheezing are asthma symptoms many people experience when they exercise. If you have these symptoms, see your health care provider. You may be diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma.

An asthma diagnosis doesn’t mean you can no longer participate in exercise or sports. You can.

Following a few steps can help reduce the risk of having an asthma attack while exercising.

  • Start slowly. Warm up by stretching and walking for at least 5-10 minutes before you exercise.
  • Pace yourself. Make sure you do not try to do too much during exercise.
  • Cool down. Take time at the end of your workout to cool down your body by walking or stretching. This will give your body time to adjust to the decrease in activity.

Listen to your body

If you feel  you are starting to have symptoms of an asthma attack, stop the activity you’re doing. Be sure to tell an adult.

Take your asthma medications. You should take any asthma medication as directed by your health care provider. Some people are allergic to certain ingredients in some medications. Never use another person’s asthma medication.

If your doctor has prescribed you an emergency or rescue inhaler, use it as directed. If you do not have a prescribed inhaler or your symptoms are not improving after using your rescue inhaler, follow these steps:

  1. Remain calm. Focus on proper breathing techniques. Inform an athletic trainer, coach, parent or other adult.
  2. Sit down and relax. Slowly inhale and exhale using pursed lips (as if you’re blowing out a candle), breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Continue to breathe this way until you feel the attack start to subside.
  3. Call 911. If you can no longer speak or are otherwise unable to breathe seek immediate care.

Follow your doctor’s advice

An asthma attack that isn’t under control during an athletic event can be dangerous. If you have asthma, make sure you’re following your doctor’s treatment plan, and that you’re taking your medications as instructed. If you believe you may have asthma and have not been treated, see your health care provider for an evaluation. Treatment for asthma is customized to you and your specific type of asthma.

Contact emergency services for any type of breathing emergency during a game or practice.

This post provided by Sports Wrap, from Marshfield Clinic Sports Medicine

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