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Asthma Complexities (cont.)

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What causes exercise-induced asthma?

Environmental allergens, pollutants, or irritants inhaled during exercise may help trigger the symptoms. Prolonged, strenuous exercises without rest periods and exercising in cool, dry conditions can also bring on exercise-induced asthma. There are two theories to explain why this occurs.

  1. Rapid breathing during exercise does not allow inspired air to be warmed and humidified by the nose. This cold, dry air cools the bronchial tubes, causing the muscles around the bronchial tubes to constrict (producing bronchospasm). After exercise, the bronchial tubes warm up. In asthma patients, warming up of the bronchial tubes causes the bronchial tubes to swell and become inflamed. This might explain why asthma occurs after exercise. This may be similar to what happens when previously cold fingers are warmed and they become red and swollen.
  2. The second theory involves the loss of humidity surrounding the cells lining the bronchial tubes during rapid breathing. This drying induces the mast cells (cells that contain chemicals that can trigger asthma and other allergic reactions) to release their chemicals, causing bronchospasm and inflammation.

What sports are best suited for exercise induced asthma? What sports are not?

Swimming is one of the best exercises for those with exercise-induced asthma. Breathing the usually warm, humid air prevents cooling and drying of the airways. Sports that involve short bursts of exertion interspersed with rest periods are preferable. Tennis, golf, baseball, and volleyball are among the sports meeting this description. The resting periods allow the airways to recover, which usually prevents the onset of exercise-induced asthma.

Rapid breathing of cold, dry air is a potent stimulus of bronchospasm in asthmatic patients. Therefore, outdoor winter sports, such as skiing, may be the most problematic. It is best to choose a sport that does not require continuous vigorous outdoor exercise such as running, bicycling, or cross-country skiing.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/20/2017


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