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About Physiatry

Pulmonary Issues in the
Athlete/Exercise-Induced Asthma

Condition: Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) is a lung condition. It occurs during or after exercise, and causes the airways to narrow, leading to asthma-like symptoms, even if a person does not have asthma.

Background: Experts believe EIA is caused by a release of histamine and other body chemicals that constrict the bronchial tubes and cause inflammation in the airways. The rate of EIA varies, depending upon the sport. Additionally, it can occur at any level of exercise.

Risk Factors: Risk factors include exercising during colder seasons and in dry weather. Other risk factors include exposure to allergens, swimming pool chlorine, having a personal or family history of asthma, hayfever or nasal inflammation, and living in an urban area. Girls and female teenagers are also at greater risk.

History and Symptoms: Symptoms often include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and/or chest tightness, and decreases in the amount of air forced from the lungs when a person exhales. Some people also experience fatigue, headache, dizziness or abdominal pain.

Physical Exam: The exam is comprehensive, and the physician typically checks a patient’s head, eyes, ears, nose, throat, chest, heart, lungs, limbs and skin.

Diagnostic Process: The physician may have the patient run on a treadmill or use other exercise equipment so the patient’s breathing rate rises. This allows the physician to better assess the condition.

Rehab Management: Since symptoms usually subside after exercise, the focus should be on avoiding triggers and preventing future attacks. Additionally, some patients can take medications prior to exercise that help open up the airways and can help prevent EIA.

Other Resources for Patients and Families: Although anyone can have EIA/EIB, as many as 90% of people with asthma will experience it. People with asthma can learn more at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

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