Exercise-induced asthma is a much more common condition than people realise, often going undiagnosed. Recently, it was reported that one in three professional footballers could be affected by the condition, highlighting the health issue. It’s something that can affect you at any age, and it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms and what to do in the event of an attack. Find out what you need to know about exercise-induced asthma.
What is exercise-induced asthma?
Exercise-induced asthma is a type of asthma that is triggered by exercise. It can be triggered by many difference exercises from walking to a fitness class. It displays the same symptoms as asthma, but sufferers find that they only experience them when they exercise. Symptoms can be managed, making it possible to continue to enjoy exercise and stay fit.
How do you know if you have exercise-induced asthma?
Common symptoms of asthma include:
- Feeling of tightness in the chest
While these symptoms are common in many other conditions, people with asthma tend to experience them more regularly, with symptoms appearing worse early morning and evening, as well as after exercise.
If you experience these symptoms while exercising, you should stop immediately. If you notice them happening regularly, then you should book an appointment with your doctor. They will be able to conduct tests to help diagnose asthma and give you the medication needed to manage your symptoms.
Provided you stick to your treatment plan, you should be able to carry on exercising as normal.
What to do in the event of an asthma attack
Most asthma attacks can be prevented by having the right asthma treatment, so it’s recommended that you book an annual appointment with your GP or nurse to make sure you’re getting the best treatment for your needs.
You could be having an asthma attack if:
- Your asthma symptoms start getting worse
- Your medication isn’t helping your symptoms
- Your breathlessness is preventing you from speaking or eating
- You feel like you can’t catch your breath
According to the NHS, if you think you’re having an asthma attack you should do the following:
- Sit down and try to take slow, steady breaths. Try to remain calm, as panicking will make things worse.
- Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds, up to a maximum of 10 puffs. It’s best to use your spacer if you have one.
- Call 999 for an ambulance if you don’t have your inhaler with you, you feel worse despite using your inhaler, you don’t feel better after taking 10 puffs, or you’re worried at any point.
- If the ambulance hasn’t arrived within 15 minutes, repeat step 2.
You can call 111 for advice if you have any concerns, and may be advised to visit an out of hours service, such as a primary or urgent care centre. Even if your symptoms improve, you should make an appointment with your GP or nurse to discuss your attack.
Calling 999 during an asthma attack could save yours or someone else’s life, so don’t be afraid to call during an emergency.
Easing exercise-induced asthma
If you suffer from exercise-induced asthma, you might want to try the following tips to help keep symptoms at bay:
- Complete a thorough warm up and cool down, taking your time to increase your heart rate gradually.
- Carry your reliever with you whenever you exercise so that you can reach for it if your symptoms emerge during a workout.
- Try to avoid exercising outdoors in winter months when the air is colder – this can make your symptoms worse.
- Dress warmly – especially around your neck and chest.
Don’t let your condition prevent you from exercising. If you have concerns or need advice, your GP will be happy to make some recommendations. NHS Choices also has a lot of useful information about asthma and managing symptoms.
Remember, don’t be afraid to call an ambulance using 999 if you’re suffering from an asthma attack that you can’t control. For non-urgent care, call 111 to be put in touch with our out of hours services.