Dr. Chacko explaining exercise induced asthma on CNN

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“So I’ll be running the first five ten minutes isn’t bad but my breathing will get heavier towards like the later part of the morning workout. And then as it gets heavier and I continue to go, that’s when the wheezing sets in and it’ll start getting tight, and that’s what I know that I need to use my inhaler.”

Albert knows all about inhalers. He has suffered from asthma since he was a kid, often having to use its inhaler as many as four times a day. The condition eased as he grew older but returned his freshman year of college, but only during intense workouts.

“If I’m weightlifting then I don’t really need it. Mostly it’s when I do cardio or play sports or anything like that definitely triggers it. As well as if I get sick or if I get a cold.”

Albert has what doctors refer to as exercise induced asthma, or exercised induced bronchoconstriction.

“So exercise induced asthma is when you have asthma-like symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, tightness of the chest, or when you exercise or when you exert yourself. A lot of times it’s due to the air coming in because you’re using your mouth more when you breathe when you exercise. When you normally breathe you breathe through your nose and it’s humidified so it’s easier for the lungs to take. When you breathe through your mouth it’s cooler and the lungs make bronchoconstriction (close up) giving you those symptoms of asthma.”

The cold air hitting your lungs is not the only trigger.

“Sometimes it could be there with infections, it could be there with pollen, with different allergies, it could be there with cold weather, so it could vary.”

Not everyone who suffers from exercise-induced bronchoconstriction has been previously diagnosed with asthma, and symptoms can vary.

“So things you should notice if you do have some exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, exercise-induced asthma, are a shortness of breath, chest tightness, and more than I’m just out of shape. These are more like your wheezing, typically occurs within about five to ten maybe twenty minutes into the exercise. Coughing is big. If you start coughing a lot that’s more than just fatigue that’s probably your lungs are twitching up.”

It is a highly treatable condition. Patients are armed with an inhaler, and some additional medication if necessary. And there are some best practices for keeping things in check, including making sure you warm up when you exercise. Then Dr. Chacko advises don’t hold back.

“We want people going, and we want people going as hard as they can. You know exercising actually helps the lungs to grow it’s good for you.”

In other words, exercise-induced asthma is not an excuse to skip your next workout.

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