Exercise-induced asthma or EIA is a condition in which a person experiences shortness of breath after doing vigorous aerobic exercises. It can also be induced by other strenuous activities. Asthma, in general, is characterized by the inflammation of bronchi of the lungs, and it can triggered by numerous factors, like pollution, smoke, dust, pollen, molds, and certain respiratory infections such as cold and flu. It has been observed that each individual suffering from asthma has some specific stimulating factors.
Causes of EIA
It has been found that the individuals who experience asthma attacks after doing strenuous physical activities, have more sensitive air passages. Their air passages are highly sensitive to any changes in temperature and humidity. In normal conditions, people breath through the nose, and this helps warm and humidify the inhaled air to resemble the humidity and temperature of the air in the lungs.
However, exercise necessitates breathing through the mouth along with the normal nasal breathing. When we breathe through the mouth, the air that reaches the lungs is colder and less humid than the air in the lungs. This is responsible for triggering an asthma attack, by increasing the blood flow to the lining of the bronchi and causing inflammation of the air passages. The secretion of mucus is also induced by such an attack, which blocks the air passages and makes breathing more difficult. The situation is aggravated if a person has allergic asthma in addition to exercise-induced asthma, and he/she is exercising in an atmosphere where allergens are present.
Symptoms of EIA
The usual symptoms of this condition include, shortness of breath, cough, an elevated rate of respiration, and wheezing. In addition to all these, patients may also experience chest pain, extreme fatigue, and chest tightness. Sometimes, cyanosis or blue coloration of the skin and the mucous membrane may occur due to the reduced oxygenation of blood. This symptom is sometimes observed in individuals with both allergic and exercise-induced asthma.
EIA Diagnosis and Treatment
Usually, the diagnosis begins with questions regarding the symptoms experienced by the patient, and his/ her medical history. The asthma attacks induced by exercise are classified into mild, moderate, and severe attacks, depending on the severity and duration of the symptoms, the degree of obstruction of the air passages, and the effects of such attacks on normal activities.
Apart from these, certain tests are also carried out for the proper diagnosis of the condition. Spirometry is such a test, which is carried out with the help of a spirometer. A spirometer is a device which can measure the amount and speed of air you can inhale and exhale. An oximetry test is also done to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood, while the peak flow meter test is performed to assess the force of your exhalation during an attack.
The best way to prevent an asthma attack is to avoid factors that are likely to trigger it. However, people who wish to continue with their exercise schedule and sports activities can take the help of medications. Some common medicines used for this condition are beta agonist, inhaled anti-inflammatory mists like corticosteroids or leukotriene antagonists, and mast cell stabilizers.
Exercise-induced asthma is generally characterized by a refractory period, during which exercises or other strenuous physical activities either produce mild or no symptom. Therefore, many individuals schedule exercises and sport activities to match such refractory periods.
To avoid this type of asthma, a lot of care needs to be taken. By taking proper medication in the required amount and reducing the exposure to the stimulating factors, one can effectively manage this condition. However, before opting for any particular medicine or preventive measure, it is always advisable to consult a certified physician.