You could be training for a marathon or taking a few easy trips on your bike each week. Regardless of your fitness routine, perhaps you’ve been noticing shortness of breath or wheezing just minutes into your workout. Symptoms can erratic, also not occurring until after you stop exercising. If that’s the case, you may have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, or EIB.
What is exercise-induced bronchoconstriction?
Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, or EIB, is the preferred term for what was known for years as exercise-induced asthma. Symptoms develop when airways narrow, as a result of physical exertion.
What causes EIB?
EIB is caused by the loss of heat, water or both from the lungs during exercise, as a result of quickly breathing in air that is drier than what is already in the body.
What are the symptoms of EIB?
The common symptoms of EIB include:
• Shortness of breath or wheezing
• Decreased endurance or feeling out of shape when you’re in good physical condition
• Tightness in the chest
• Upset stomach
• Sore throat
• In children, avoidance of activity
How is EIB diagnosed?
It is important to see a physician because a number of conditions can cause similar symptoms. An allergist can determine whether your symptoms are exercise-induced alone, a reaction to allergens or irritants in the air, or an indication of underlying asthma. Wheezing in children after physical activity is often the first symptom of asthma.
As part of an examination, your allergist will take a history, including asking for information about any relatives with asthma or other breathing difficulties. You also may be asked for specific details about your physical activity, including where and how often you exercise. Your allergist will consider contributing or complicating conditions, such as upper-airway problems, that might play a role in your difficulties with exercise.
To check how exercise affects your breathing, your allergist may measure your breathing before, during and after you run on a treadmill or ride an exercise bike. During the test, you will breathe into a tube that connects to a spirometer, a device that measures the volume of air being inhaled and exhaled.
How can I relieve my EIB symptoms?
• Warm up with gentle exercises for about 15 minutes before you start more intense physical activity.
• Try to breathe through your nose while you exercise. This helps warm the air that goes into your lungs. Cover your mouth and nose with a scarf when you exercise in cold weather.
• Sports that require only short bursts of activity—including volleyball, gymnastics, baseball, wrestling, golf, swimming, football, and short-term track-and-field events—are least likely to cause EIB symptoms. Some swimming events can demand constant activity, but the warmth and humidity from the water make it easier for people with EIB to breathe.
• Activities like walking, hiking and recreational biking are also beneficial to those with EIB symptoms.
If you think you suffer from EIB, call (800) 86-COUGH, option 2 to schedule a consultation.
Allergy & Asthma Specialists,SM a group practice with eight locations in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, provides state-of-the-art medical care in a personal and caring environment, emphasizing the control of asthma and allergic disease, while avoiding side effects from medications.
Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM
Locations: Blue Bell, King of Prussia, Collegeville, Pottstown, Philadelphia, Jenkintown, Lansdale, Doylestown
Office hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Evening appointments available weekly on alternating days.
Toll-free: (800) 86-COUGH
Local: (610) 825-5800