Coping with exercise-induced asthma


Whether you run for fun, fitness or to compete, feeling fit, able and confident whilst out pounding the streets is a great feeling. So what if you suffer from exercise-induced asthma?

Exercise-induced asthma is the narrowing of the body’s airways during exercise brought about by an exaggerated immune response and can happen to the fittest of runners.

This irritating and, in extreme circumstances, dangerous condition can be brought on by intense exercise and may be contributed to by:

  • cold air

  • dry air

  • air pollution

  • high pollen counts

  • respiratory infections

Those with a known history of asthma will likely be aware of how exercise might affect their condition but for some individuals they may have never experienced this before. If this is the case your first port of call should be to see your GP.

Avoiding running in cold, dry, polluted and pollen filled air may not always be an option so how can you reduce the effects of exercise-induced asthma and still fit in your training?

Having been to your GP, they may have prescribed you with medication or an inhaler that will help to reduce the effects of the inflammatory response created by the body. These medications should only be taken in line with the advice from your GP.

Other options include keeping a record of where your asthma is triggered during your runs.

Not everyone will be affected by the same triggers in the same way and so discovering and then avoiding yours where possible is a sensible course of action.

If, like me, you find that your main trigger is pollen released at certain times of year or when they are cutting trees/grass in your favourite park, then keeping a running/symptom diary and contacting your local park ranger to discover when maintenance will be occurring is a sensible method of avoiding that area at problem times.

Here are some additional tips to help limit the effects of exercise-induced asthma on your training:

  • Do a 10-minute warm-up that varies in intensity before you begin your run

  • Breathe through your nose to warm and humidify the air before it enters your lungs

  • Wear a face mask or scarf when running, especially in cold, dry weather

  • Avoid strenuous exercise if you have a cold or other respiratory infection

  • Exercise regularly to stay in shape and promote good respiratory health

Above all listen to your body and should you begin to suffer an attack it is best to cease running and seek assistance if necessary.

For information about asthma, visit the Asthma UK website.

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