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Exercise is the most common trigger of breathing problems in people with asthma. Up to 90 percent of all individuals with asthma will have breathing problems at some point during exercise. This is called exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB). About 10 percent of the general population without asthma have EIB when they exercise.
EIB occurs when airflow to the lungs is reduced due to narrowing and closing of the airways in association with exercise. EIB can moderately impact athletic performance or be severe enough to incapacitate the athlete or, in rare cases, even put his or her life at risk. Symptoms can start within five to 15 minutes of beginning exercise or five to 20 minutes after stopping exercise. The most common symptoms are:
Competitive and recreational athletes have a much higher rate of EIB. In studies of Olympic and other elite athletes, EIB occurred 20 to 50 percent of the time in athletes without asthma. Many of these athletes did not even know they had EIB.
Athletes often ignore symptoms of EIB, perceiving the condition as an indication of poor performance or simply being out of shape.
The initial visit to the Asthma in Athletes program will include a comprehensive history and physical examination. The appropriate diagnostic tests will be scheduled based on the needs of each individual athlete. Those tests may include specialized pulmonary function testing, electrocardiography, echocardiography, allergy testing or evaluation for vocal cord dysfunction. Additionally, the Asthma Center at the Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center is the only facility in central Ohio that offers Eucapnic Voluntary Hyperventilation (EVH) testing, the International Olympic Committee’s preferred test for diagnosing exercise-induced asthma.
Based on our clinical evaluation, we offer an individualized treatment plan and education tailored to the specific needs of each athlete. We can also communicate treatment plans with the athlete’s coaching staff, athletic trainers or other physicians if requested.
Here are some other options to help control EIB:
Asthma inhalers or bronchodilators: Short-acting bronchodilators like albuterol or levalbuterol are the most common medicines used to treat EIB. To prevent EIB, the medicine should be taken 15-20 minutes before exercise.
Inhaled corticosteroids: These are recommended in patients with EIB who:
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