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Exercise-Induced Asthma (cont.)

What Causes Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Asthma has two components: the underlying chronic inflammation and the periodic attacks. We do not know for certain what causes the underlying inflammation. What we do know is that the tendency to have asthma runs in families and that some people are born with the tendency to have asthma.

We do know that exposure to a trigger causes asthma attacks. In exercise-induced asthma, that trigger is rapid movement of air into the lungs before it is warmed and humidified. This often occurs because of an increased respiratory rate with exercise. The attack is similar in many ways to an allergic reaction.

  • An allergic reaction is a response by the body's immune system to an "invader." That invader can be a substance or anything that the body senses as "different."
  • When the cells of the immune system sense an invader, they set off a series of reactions that help fight off the invader.
  • It is this series of reactions that causes the inflammation that leads to the production of mucus and bronchospasm. These responses cause the symptoms of an asthma attack.
  • The spasm of the airways is in response to some stimulus causing this asthma reaction (reactive airways disease).

Sports and games that require continuous activity or are played in cold weather are most likely to trigger an asthma attack.

  • Long-distance running
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Hockey (ice and field)
  • Cross-country skiing

Sports that are less likely to trigger an asthma attack are those that require short bursts of activity interspersed with breaks.

  • Walking
  • Recreational biking (not racing)
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Short-distance running and track/field events
  • Baseball or softball
  • Golfing
  • Football
  • Volleyball
  • Wrestling
  • Gymnastics
  • Downhill skiing
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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