Exercised Induced Asthma- Understanding Your Participants Individual Needs

You cannot breathe; you are gasping for air and even though you do not have asthma, you feel like you do. How would you feel if you were exercising one day and this happened to you? This is something that people with exercised induced asthma (EIA) have to contend with every time they step into the gym. People with this condition may or may not suffer from asthma everyday, but when they exercise they experience many of the signs and symptoms of a regular asthma sufferer. This condition is prevalent in many of our participants and it is important that we understand what EIA is and some signs to look for.

What is Exercised Induced Asthma (EIA)?

· A reversible obstruction of the airway occurring upon the commencement of vigorous exercise in people with heightened bronchial reactivity

· According to The Canadian Lung Association, up to 10% of normal athletes and 50% of people with hay fever or allergic rhinitis (allergic runny nose) experience this condition

· In the USA, 12-15% of the population are affected by EIA; 90% of those already with asthma, 35-45% with allergic rhinitis, and 3-10% of the general population

· Two of the main theories on why people experience EIA are the water loss theory and the heat exchange theory.

· Water loss focuses on increased dryness in the airway which leads to bronchoconstriction (constriction of the airway)

· Heat exchange theory focuses on an increased blood flow through the area around the airway (post exercise) which again leads to a constricted airway

What are some Signs and Symptoms?

· Coughing · Wheezing · Dyspnea (abnormal or uncomfortable breathing) · Chest tightness · Lack of energy · Frequent throat clearing · Tiring easily · Dizziness · Commencement of symptoms usually occurs during the first 6-8 minutes of exercise, but it usually peaks at 15 minutes and can last up to 60 minutes following exercise.

What can you do?

· Pre-screen your participants to find out if they have EIA or asthma · Give your participant a longer warm up · Make sure the environment is not cold or dry · Advise the participant to discontinue exercise and rest. If the symptoms continue, they should use their inhaler. What can Your Clients Do? Non-drug treatments: · Avoid exercise in dry environments · Avoid exercise in the outdoors during allergy season (allergens in the air can cause an attack) · Appropriate warm ups and cool downs – 15 minute warm up · Decrease intensity · Anaerobic exercise as opposed to aerobic. Drug treatments: · Beta-2 Agonists (Albuterol) · Mast-Cell Stabilizers (Cromolyn Sodium) · Inhaled Corticosterioids As fitness leaders, we need to be aware of EIA and that it may be of concern to our clients. Pre screen, look out for obvious signs of breathing difficulties or abnormal behaviour during exercise, and adjust your program accordingly. With these things in mind, we should be able to give our clients a safe and effective workout.


Saglimbeni, Anthony J. “Exercise- Induced Asthma.” E Medicine- Instant Access to the Minds of Medicine. June 14th, 2004. 5 Oct. 2004 http://www.emedicine.com/sports/topic155.htm#section~introduction Lacroix, Vincent J. “Exercise- Induced Asthma.” The Physician and Sportsmedicine. – Vol 27 – NO. 12 – November 1999. 18 Sep. 2004 http://www.physsportsmed.com/issues/1999/11_99/lacroix.htm MedicineNet.Com. April 5th, 2002. 20 Oct. 2004 http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=18160 The Canadian Lung Association Website: http://www.lung.ca/asthma/exercise/eib.html U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institute of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “Practical Guide for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma.” NIH Publication No. 97-4053. October, 1997: 15.
Nicole Palacios, BSc Exercise Science, is an ACE and BCRPA certified personal trainer, BCRPA supervisor of fitness leader, and mother of two. She enjoys helping people reach their fitness dreams.

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