Exercise induced asthma - prevention?

Hi all,

I've had asthma since the age of 5 (I'm 42 now), and it's always been mainly triggered by exercise. I've noticed over the years that all of the literature about EIA (or EIB as it's now apparently called) says that you should just take your reliever 15 minutes before exercise to prevent wheezing during exercise. I don't know about anyone else, but that's never worked for me! No matter how much I prepare, I will always need to use my reliever several times within the first 10-15 minutes of exercise (particularly hard exercise like running), and then my lungs settle down and I don't tend to need it for the rest of the session.

So my question is to anyone with similar asthma to me - have you ever been able to prevent wheezing during exercise? I'm sure I can't be alone in this, and my asthma nurse hasn't really been able to give any useful advice. I love my running, but I'm not happy that I still have to take quite high doses of my inhaler in order to enjoy it!

Thanks!

Sarah

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  • Having just looked up EIB for confirmation, I get the feeling that EIB and EIA are not actually the same thing. Google 'exercise induced bronchospasm vs asthma' for more on this.

  • Or, having looked up further articles, maybe they are the same, it's just that some asthmatics (a distinct minority it would seem from the available literature) don't get it.

    I am an exercise induced asthmatic (for however you choose to define it, exercise does trigger my asthma), and I've never noticed reliever inhalers doing a good job at preventing an attack when I attempt aerobic exercise. Over the years I've come to accept that there are just some forms of exercise I can't do - and running is one of them. My younger son, also asthmatic, doesn't have that problem. He was able to do cross country running when at school, whereas I will struggle to do more much than a hundred metres. In my case it's probably just as well as I also happen to have joint Hypermobility syndrome, which can be a problem when running longer distances: you are much more prone to injury. My preferred form of exercise is classical ballet - which does a wonderful job of giving me a full body workout without giving my lungs an excuse to kick up a fuss:-)

    My own feeling is that there is still a lot to learn about exercise induced asthma. I get irritated when people say to me (or I read in articles) that the reason I get EIA is because my asthma is poorly controlled, when I know, and all the medics who treat me agree, that my (moderate) asthma is actually very well controlled and has been for some years.

    So no, Sarah, you are not alone in struggling to control your asthma during aerobic exercise, but I'm afraid I can't give you any further advice because, like you, I've never found a solution either. Also like you I'd be interested to hear from anyone who can. At the moment the best I can do when it comes to aerobic exercise is a brisk walk for an hour or so (brisk for me being a walking pace of about 3.5 miles per hour - but then I don't have very long legs, being just 5ft 3.5 inches tall, and this is off road walking and not on the flat):-)

  • Thanks Maggie! It's nice to know I'm not alone. I also agree that my asthma is well controlled, but the relievers just don't cut it in preventing wheezing (I wouldn't call it an attack) when running, etc. Maybe that's just how it is, and I'll always have to use my inhaler in the first 15 minutes. I guess I should feel lucky that I can at least do that type of exercise at all!

  • Hi Sazza, I too find running very difficult due to my asthma, although some days are better than others. I take my inhaler before and like you I need it again within 10 or so minutes then can seem to push on through. I've been trying week 2 of the couch to 5k but failing miserably. I find I am a bit better when there is less pollution and pollen - so incredibly high for weeks in the south of the country it seems like I'm being bombarded with it! Arghhh.

    I am much better with swimming but like Maggie have joint hyper mobility so if I do breaststroke then I'm dislocating joints for a couple of weeks after so I'm still limited to what I can do. I'm also a big fan of mountain walking - lots of great exercise and plenty of fresh, low pollution and low pollen air. I'm a newly diagnosed asthmatic this year, although have never been able to run, so I'm still finding out what is best for me but if I try something and can't do it then I'll try something else. Hope you find a way through it.

  • Sadly swimming is something I have to avoid, unless I wear goggles and a nose peg (even if I'm doing backstroke). I'm allergic to chlorine. Without goggles and a nose peg, I will end up with streaming rhinitis and have even had problems with asthma.

  • Hi Sarah,

    Preventing wheezing during exercise? Yes I've had the same problem. I'm 69, I love sports, now especially distance running, I've had the problem of wheezing during exercise since I was 6. My asthma got better in high school. Why? no smoking rule in the house, no more dairy products and a great track coach who inspired me. My asthma went away, only to come back harder in my 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. In my late 50s I moved to a rural mountainous area with very little air pollution. I also no long lived with a cat. The biggest thing that prevented wheezing was doing deep breathing exercises: The Peaceful Warrior

    Workout. Go to PeacefulWarrior.com to learn how to do this workout. I do it every day for a few minutes. This workout, more than anything else, cleared my chest and resulted in hardly any wheezing. Before you do any exercise program, consult with your doctor.

    I start my running workouts running very slowly for five minutes. Then for 15 minutes I run

    at a race pace for about 200 or 300 yards. I slow down when I begin to feel tired

  • Hi Sarah,

    Preventing wheezing during exercise? Yes I've had the same problem. I'm 69, I love sports, now especially distance running. I've had the problem of wheezing during exercise since I was 6. My asthma got better in high school. Why? no smoking rule in the house, no more dairy products and a great track coach who inspired me. My asthma went away, only to come back harder in my 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. In my late 50s I moved to a rural mountainous area with very little air pollution. I also no long lived with a cat. The biggest thing that prevented wheezing in my late 50s was doing deep breathing exercises: The Peaceful Warrior

    Workout. Go to PeacefulWarrior.com to learn how to do this workout. I do it every day for a few minutes. This workout, more than anything else, cleared my chest and resulted in hardly any wheezing. Before you do any exercise program, consult with your doctor.

    Now, before a run I do the Peaceful Warrior Workout and about 8 or 10 Sun Salutes, breathing thru the nose. Sun Salutes are a type of yoga. You can learn how to do them by googling "John Douillard" and "Sun Salutes." Before I take the first step of my run I've done 15 minutes of deep breathing exercises.

    I start my running workouts running very slowly for five minutes concentrating on deep breaths through the nose. Then for 15 minutes I run

    at a race pace for about 200 or 300 yards breathing thru the nose as much as possible. I slow down when I begin to feel tired or I can't breathe thru the nose any more.

    Then I'm ready for the hard running. I breathe thru the nose as long as I can before I mouth breathe. Nose breathing gets the air deeper in the lungs than mouth breathing. Nose breathing also promotes a sense of calm. My goal is to nose breathe in all my running. I'm not there yet but I'm making progress.

    Everything I've told you has lessened my wheezing during running. I've really only scratched the surface here. You could read my book, "Running with Asthma: An Asthmatic Runner's Memoir." It is available on amazon.com. Here is wishing you the best.

    John Terry McConnell

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