Updated 16 September 2014

Why do I get asthma when exercising?

In many asthmatics, particularly children, breathlessness and wheezing is brought on by exercise. This is referred to as exercise-induced-asthma (EIA).

In many asthmatics, particularly children, breathlessness and wheezing is brought on by exercise. It might be the result of cold air and faster breathing.

Exercise induced asthma usually occurs after about six to ten minutes of exercise and may interfere with the continuation of the sport. But this shouldn’t stop your child from being physically active. Asthmatic children should be encouraged to join in for their general good health, although they may need to use a bronchodilator before they exercise.

No one is certain why exercise sets off asthma, although experts believe asthmatics wheeze when they exercise because faster, deeper breathing dries out the airways and triggers a spasm. The cold air can also be a factor. Breathing through the nose instead of the mouth causes less wheezing. Exercising in cold, dry weather is more likely to cause wheezing, while swimming is especially good for asthmatics because the air in swimming pools is warm and damp.

If you jog early in the morning or evening and the air is cold, tie a bandana loosely around your face to cover your mouth and nose - this will warm the air and is of great help, according to some asthmatic joggers.

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Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

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