Sometimes exercise triggers asthma symptoms. This is called exercise-induced asthma (EIA).
The symptoms of EIA are coughing, wheezing, a feeling of tightness in your chest, or shortness of breath. Most times, these symptoms start soon after you stop exercising. Some people may have symptoms after they start exercising.
Having asthma symptoms when exercising does not mean a student cannot or should not exercise. Taking part in recess, physical education (PE), and after-school sports is important for all children. And children with asthma should not have to sit on the side lines.
School staff and coaches should know your child's asthma triggers, such as:
A student with asthma should warm up before exercising and cool down afterward.
Read the student's asthma action plan. Make sure staff members know where it is kept. Discuss the action plan with the parent or guardian. Find out what type of activities the student can do and for how long.
Teachers, coaches, and other school staff should know the symptoms of asthma and what to do if a student has an asthma attack. Help the student take the medicines listed in his or her asthma action plan.
Encourage the student to participate in PE. To help prevent an asthma attack, modify PE activities. For example, a running program might be set up this way:
Some exercises may be less likely to trigger asthma symptoms.
Activities that are more intense and sustained, such as long periods of running, basketball, and soccer, are more likely to trigger asthma symptoms.
If an asthma action plan instructs the student to take medicines before exercising, remind the student to do so. These may include short-acting and long-acting medicines.
Short-acting, or quick-relief, medicines:
Long-acting inhaled medicines:
Children can take long-acting medicines before school and they will help for the whole day.
Durrani SR, Busse WW. Management of asthma in adolescents and adults. In: Adkinson NF Jr., Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al., eds. In: Middleton's Allergy Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 55.
Weiler JM, Anderson SD, Randolph C, et al.; American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; Joint Council of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Pathogenesis, prevalence, diagnosis, and management of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction: a practice parameter. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2010;105(6 Suppl):S1-S47.
Updated by: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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