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Even Olympians Get Exercise-Induced Asthma

It's a common condition that shouldn't stop anyone from being active, experts say

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 8, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- People with asthma who get symptoms during exercise shouldn't be deterred from staying active, experts say.

After all, exercise-induced asthma affects as many as 20 percent of highly competitive athletes and one in every six athletes competing in this month's Winter Olympics.

"People who have exercise-induced asthma should not stop exercising," Dr. Timothy J. Craig, chairman of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's sports medicine committee, said in a prepared statement. "Exercise is good for all people, including those with asthma. Certain activities are better for people suffering from exercise-induced asthma, although the type and duration of activities varies with each individual."

Exercise-induced asthma is caused by airways that are overly sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and humidity. It can be especially apparent during the winter, when the air is colder and drier. People with the condition experience breathing problems within five to 20 minutes after exercising. Symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, chest pain, and prolonged or unexpected shortness of breath.

Sports less likely to trigger asthmatic symptoms are those that require short bursts of energy, such as baseball, football, golf, gymnastics, short-duration track and field events, surfing, and wrestling. Walking, easy cycling, hiking and downhill skiing are also less likely to trigger exercise-induced asthma, the AAAAI experts said. In cold weather, wearing a scarf or surgical mask warms inhaled air and helps reduce the risk of symptoms, Craig said.

Swimming is another good sport for people with asthma. It features a warm, humid environment, and the horizontal position can help move mucus from the bottom of the lungs.

With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, all people with exercise-induced asthma should be able to exercise to their full ability, Craig said.

More information

The AAAAI has more about exercise-induced asthma.

SOURCE: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, news release, February 2006
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