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Three Tips for Controlling Exercise-Induced Asthma

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Asthma is a chronic lung condition that affects one in twelve Americans. Asthma causes inflammation of your airways, and this inflammation means that less air can get through. Wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath are typical symptoms of asthma, and they can be triggered by many factors, including exercise. Here are three tips for controlling exercise-induced asthma.

Remember to warm up

It can be hard to squeeze exercise sessions into your busy days, so you may be tempted to skip your warm-up and head right into your workout. However, for people with asthma, a warm-up is incredibly important.

When you exercise, you need to breathe more, and this allows your airway to dry out and cool. This dryness can trigger the release of mediators like histamine, which constricts your airways and contributes to asthma. Warming up can prevent an asthma attack, since it allows your airways to acclimate to your increased breathing rate. Try to warm up for between six and eight minutes—with your heart rate between 80% and 90% of your expected maximum heart rate—before each workout.

Exercise indoors when pollen levels are high

When you breathe in airborne allergens like pollen, your airways become inflamed. This can trigger an asthma attack, so on days with high pollen counts, you should trade the track for a treadmill. While working out indoors isn't as fun, it helps to shield you from pollen.

Pollen levels are usually highest on spring mornings, but pollen can be present year round. Before you head outdoors for your workout, check the pollen levels in your area. You can get this information from your local news and weather station or from the Internet. If your sources say the pollen counts are low, you can head outdoors.

Use pre-exercise medications

Your allergist may recommend using medications before your workouts to keep asthma symptoms at bay. These medications, known as beta2-agonists or bronchodilators, work by quickly widening your airways and allowing more air to pass into your lungs.

For most people, these medications offer significant protection against exercise-induced asthma when they're taken right before exercise. They become less effective if they're used every day, so your allergist may recommend less frequent exercise sessions.

Exercise-induced asthma can cut your workouts short, but fortunately, there are many ways to keep it under control. To avoid asthma attacks, remember to warm up, exercise indoors when pollen counts are high, and use pre-exercise medications, if prescribed. Talk to a professional such as an allergist for more personalized tips.