Exercise is one of the most common triggers for students with asthma — up to 80% of people with asthma have symptoms when they exercise. But up to 20% of people who don't have asthma do have exercise-induced asthma (EIA).
Breathing through the nose warms and humidifies the air before it reaches the lung. EIA is believed to be caused when cold, dry air is inhaled quickly through the mouth during exercise. The cooler air can cause the airways in the lungs to become narrower, blocking the flow of air and making it harder to breathe.
This narrowing, called bronchoconstriction, can occur in people who don't have asthma, which is why it's sometimes referred to as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) instead of exercise-induced asthma.
Students with EIA may show symptoms 5 to 10 minutes into exercise. Symptoms usually peak 5 to 10 minutes after they stop exercising and usually resolve within 1 hour. EIA symptoms include:
Students with EIA may:
Having EIA doesn't mean students should skip sports, gym classes, or other physical activities. Students with EIA may need to use inhalers before exercise.
Teachers and coaches can help students with EIA by:
You should know your students' asthma triggers and allow them to use their medicines when needed. If a student's symptoms get worse after taking medicine, call the school nurse or 911.
Reviewed by: Mary Lou Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014
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