More than 80 percent of asthmatics suffer from exercise-induced asthma — EIA — which is a condition that is more common during the winter.
The relationship between asthma and exercise is complicated, but with a little preventive know-how, most asthmatics should be able to enjoy the exercise of their choice.
EIA also affects many people who haven’t previously had asthma. About half of the people who have environmental allergies and more than 10 percent of athletes develop EIA.
The way exercise causes asthma is not fully understood. It probably starts when exercise increases the body’s demand for oxygen, which in turn creates rapid breathing. Then, it is thought that the winter air cools and dries the airways, sending the bronchial tubes into spasm. While EIA sometimes occurs during exercise, it happens more typically afterward.
Asthmatics Can Exercise
Do not let a fear of EIA keep you or your children out of action. Exercise is healthy for asthmatics and should be restricted only in severe cases of uncontrolled asthma.
There may be times when you will need to rein it in or skip a day — for instance, if it is exceedingly cold or you have had recent flare-ups. But for the most part, eventually you should be able to perform at the same level and intensity as someone without asthma.
Work closely with your doctor to create an appropriate exercise program that incorporates other elements of your asthma-management plan. Here are some general prevention guidelines to keep in mind:
- Certain types of activities are less likely to cause EIA. Choose from among them if you enjoy them. If not, you will not stick with it. Activities that are easier on the airways are those done in a warm, humid environment, like indoor swimming.
- Try to switch to indoor exercise on days that are bitterly cold, or when the pollen count or air pollution levels are high.
- When exercising outdoors in cold weather, wear a special face mask that helps warm the air as you breathe. You can buy them at many drug stores. At the very least, wear a scarf over your mouth.
- Warm up and cool down thoroughly. You may need to extend your warm-ups and cool-downs. Talk with your doctor about the specifics.
- Take medication as directed, beforehand. Your medication needs may vary with the circumstances, so ask your doctor for contingency plans.
- It’s helpful if your nose and sinuses are clear at the start of your workout.