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What causes exercise-induced asthma? Can I compete in sports?

Posted Oct 01 2008 8:12pm

People with asthma can usually compete in sports at a very high level when they know how to do it. All people who cough and wheeze when they exercise have asthma at other times also. Exercise-induced asthma means that you start to cough and wheeze 7 to 15 minutes after you start to exercise or immediately after you finish exercising. It's not caused by exercise, it's caused by breathing dry cold air. That's why running is far more likely to cause an asthma attack than swimming.

People who wheeze with exercise can wheeze when they are exposed to other triggers such as irritants like smoke, allergens like cat dander and infections. If you are wheezing before you start to exercise, using an albuterol inhaler will help you to exercise, but it will not allow you to compete at your best. For at least a week before starting an important competition, you may need to take an antibiotic if infected, or a cortisone-type inhaler, and sometimes even cortisone-type pills. You can sometimes prevent an asthma attack during competition by taking two grams of vitamin C one hour before your event. Another preventative measure is to exercise intensely for 45 to 60 minutes before you compete to bring on an attack of exercise- induced asthma. This can prevent further attacks for up to two hours. Another approach is to wear a face mask that warms the air when you exercise in cold weather. These are only research reports, so check with your doctor.

On asthma triggered by infection, read report #G107.

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