Can I run?

Hello, my name is Amy :-).

This may sound daft but I have asthma and have had it since being diagnosed at 3 years old. I am now 22, almost 23 and I love to run. My asthma is well controlled day to day but if I catch a cold, or when I do strenuous exercise (mainly running) my asthma is erratic and no amount of Salbutamol can help it. I struggle to breathe and it pains me to breathe in deeply. I have informed doctors in the past but they just tell me that that is part of being an asthmatic ... but surely it can't be.. when we have amazing asthmatic athletes out there? Am I being fobbed off by my doctor? I am fairly fit, eat healthy, always active - I work most days in the week and I always walk a good 3+ miles every week.

12 Replies

  • Have you tried taking your salbutamol inhaler before you exercise or start your run? People say this helps. Other than that just do the best you can when you can. Our condition is something that can change almost minute to minute so you have just got to do the best you can at that time and try and work up to your goal.

    Good Luck with the running.



  • Hi Amy

    Feefaller is spot on that it isn't a static disease at all & I have always assumed that many of the asthmatic 'elite' athletes probably don't experience symptoms with the same severity or frequency as perhaps some of us do at least some of the time.

    Personally although I have always been a walker & tried to keep active all my life, I have never been able to run more than a very short distance without experiencing problems. My son is asthmatic & plays football in various leagues; generally manages fine but occasionally has to drop out of matches so the doctors are probably in part correct that it is just the nature of what we have.

    However, you know your symptoms & your body best of all, so if you think something is not quite right you have to just keep nattering until you resolve it one way or the other.

    I hope that helps a bit anyway.

    Edit: I also meant to add that Freefaller's advice about taking salbutamol before exercise is a really good tip; my son always does that before a match & I know it helps him.

  • I have a friend who has asthma and does Iron man comps, she was told to increase her prevented for a couple of days and also to take her blue inhaler 5 times a day whether she needed it or not. Good luck with your running

  • The older I've got, the more active I am. And I believe it really helps my asthma as overall I am healthier. The doctor kind of has a point about it being a feature of asthma, but I find far too many NHS professionals take the "live with it approach" - maybe because of cost? (NB: not just with asthma, I've had it with physio too, from a sports injury!)

    I run, strength train, cycle, use kettlebells. But generally I always have my inhalers just before starting, and sometimes with running more than anything, during. I also find cold air to be a real issue and have to go a lot slower at the start to get my lungs to adapt.

    I say keep going, but experiment yourself with what works. And be prepared to figure it out on your own and then stick with that. That's where I made the most progress :)

  • Hi Amy

    I think Krider and Freefaller have some good advice, exercise will improve your asthma so it is very important you keep running, plus you probably enjoy it.

    Many people take their salbutamol inhaler before they start running and during, plus starting your run very slowly can be key.

    Look up exercise induced asthma and you may pick up some good advice.

    If you find yourself struggling to breath dont fight it and push on, but stop and relax, wait until your breathing fully recovers, sit down if need be it may take a while, then you can start running again and may find your breathing is almost normal.

    I dont think taking your blue inhaler 5 times the day before would work I cannot think of any mechanism where this would help, possibly it would desensitise you to the salbutamol and make it less effective for you.

    Good luck with the running

  • Hi Amy, I have just retired as a practice nurse specialising in asthma. One of the gold standard questions in the asthma review is " does your asthma stop you doing anything/ interfere with any exercise which you (personally) would normally do". If the answer is "yes" then you need to have a review with your practice nurse and your treatment needs changing. Are you on a maintenance inhaler? It is very outdated to suggest that you should just put up with it.


  • Hi Judy

    I've been asked that question many times in my time! And some of the biggest steps forward I have taken have been through saying 'no I can't...', so I really support what you are saying. My sort of 'but' though you think it would always be true that anyone can get to an optimum breathing state?

    In my case I had mismanaged asthma from infancy probably until I was in my late 20s (no preventer, regular attacks, etc.) until a particularly good GP got me sorted out. But I have never really felt totally on top of it even at my healthiest although I was able to live a pretty normal & active life.

    Now in my early 50s I find myself now with further problems & endless GP, nurse & consultant appointments which I sense are probably being attributed to damage done to my lungs earlier in life.

    So...& I know it's not easy to answer, but do you think that you can cross a line & just not be able to get back? I would like to think I could get to a point where I can do reasonably energetic things again but sometimes that feels a long way off.

    I'm not usually maudlin by the way but I would be interested in your thoughts & experience.

  • Hi,

    I know that untreated asthma over the years can cause some irreversible problems. I myself had quite severe asthma as a child and there weren't the treatments available then (I'm 55). And having done spirometry on myself, there is a little obstruction but some readings are better than they should be ,so my lungs have compensated. I have very few problems now. I do think that everyone can reach an optimum , and if you don't smoke ,you should be able to reach this. Has anything changed recently? Could it be hormonal ( I don't know if you are male or female).


  • Hi

    I'm male but I guess that doesn't exempt me from being hormonal!

    I became aware over the last couple of years that I was coughing incessantly & my asthma was clearly getting more frequent & worse than usual. To cut a long story short, I'm being told that I have "abnormalities" in my lungs; the main one being a very high sensitivity to aspergillus. I was assessed for suspected bronchiectasis but the scan showed that although I didn't have classic symptoms there is some mis-shaping that was causing various bugs to get stuck there. So a mix of itraconazole, antibiotics, steroids on & off & asthma medication are on the menu. I have days where my peak flow drifts upwards & I feel reasonably energetic, but nowhere near "normal".

    I think where I am is at that point of wondering if I accept my lot & modify my lifestyle knowing that occasional lifts are the best realistic option or if the asthma can get back in its box again.

  • Lots of good advice already. I have exercise induced asthma, which came on in my mid thirties. I "retired" from athletics (mainly 3 miles to marathon road + cross country) at 37 when my stamina went, with a sudden 10% loss in performance. It took 4 years to hear about exercise induced asthma, since my condition did not affect my life otherwise, and a brisk walk did not bring on the symptoms.

    At 65, I went to my doctor because I wanted to run again, and he prescribed inhalers. 11 years later, I still compete and am "good for age"! I use a Preventer twice a day, and Salbutamol when required, i.e. half an hour before running (or singing, my other hobby). I also take an extra dose of Preventer before a race.

    My symptoms are obviously less severe than yours, Amy, but they should be controllable. The best advice is to see a good GP (I've been very lucky here).

    Good luck with your running - probably the purest sport there is! I only wish that my legs were a bit younger!!!

  • Just wanted to throw this out there; I have severe asthma, triggered -- among other things -- by cold air and exercise..and I play ice hockey :)

    It's been really up and down. I use salbutamol 10 puffs before training, 5 puffs before games. I have Montelukast 10mg every day. I am on Symbicort 200/6 2 puffs twice a day (although recently upped it to 3 twice a day) as a preventer, and I may be starting Atrovent pre-hockey soon. This is all combined with short shifts in games, frequent breaks during training, strict adherence to my meds and avoidance of triggers, and ensuring I warm up before I even get on the ice.

    It has been hard. Before I started on regular preventers last year I had to stop doing hockey because my lungs couldn't handle it. Before I got Seretide I was really struggling in practices. Before Montelukast, I was really tight and coughing after hockey. Then I ended up in A&E in the holidays with a severe asthma attack, and a week later landed myself in Resus and then hospital for 6 days with a life-threatening attack, narrowly missing the ICU. But 6 weeks later and I am back at full strength :D

    What meds are you on?

  • Never feel like you're being 'fobbed off' - get a second opinion. You know your body better than anyone.

    I'm a competitive athlete and always take my ventolin inhaler before I start training and if I've got a cold, take things easier. I always have the ventolin to hand just in case. I am slightly strange as running itself sets my asthma off - thankfully I don't need to run as part of my sport.

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