Pollen counts are updated daily from February 15 to November 15.
45 percent of Americans said it was their New Year’s resolution in 2018 to get in better shape or lose weight, according to a Statista study. During the first weeks of a new year, it is very common to see gyms flooded with new members. While things may be a bit different because of COVID-19, we know many of you are still looking for ways to get in better shape this year. You too may be ready to take on something new at home or outdoors, but you may have reservations if you are also an asthma sufferer.
Sometimes you find that you can do moderate exercise with no ill effects. Other times, you hop on a treadmill or jog outside and within minutes, you feel like you can’t breathe. How do you stay healthy and exercise without triggering your asthma?
We’re happy to say, it is possible. By following the safety practices and precautions we’ve outlined in this article, you too can prioritize fitness in the coming year without suffering from breathing difficulties each time you do.
Asthma can be triggered by many different lifestyle factors and activities, such as allergies or exercise. If it’s the latter, then you may have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. This is sometimes also called exercise-induced asthma.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) says that those with asthma worldwide are in the 300-million range. Not everyone who has asthma will have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction and vice-versa. In the first situation, some asthma sufferers find they can exercise just fine without having breathing troubles. Instead, their symptoms will be caused by other triggers. In the latter situation, some people only have asthma attacks after exercise and at no other times.
If you do indeed have exercise-induced asthma, then you may experience an inability to breathe, coughing, a tight feeling in the chest and wheezing while exercising. These symptoms may manifest very quickly, around five minutes after a workout. For some, it may be up to 20 minutes before the breathing difficulties begin. The symptoms usually quicker improve at rest but may reappear 4 to 8 hours after the workout.
Exercise-induced asthma episodes can be triggered by exposure to very cold and warm temperatures. During the winter, both the dry air and the low temperatures that can trigger coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Your bronchial tubes become dehydrated in the chilly weather. This shrinks them, which means normal breathing becomes more difficult.
On the other hand, the humidity of summertime weather can also wreak havoc on your asthma. It’s already hard enough to breathe outside in hot, stifling weather. Having a condition like asthma makes it worse.
If you can, reconsider exercising outdoors in either weather extreme.
For some, cold or hot weather is the trigger for their exercise-induced asthma. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI) says another trigger for those with this type of asthma is irritants such as chlorine or pollutants in the air. High pollen levels in the air can also be a problem. It has been noted that exercise induced asthma is higher in people with pollen allergies and some experience more problems in the Spring and Fall when pollen counts are highest.
Once you know what triggers your asthma attacks, you can be more careful about dodging these triggers. If it’s air pollutants, you might stick to exercising indoors only. This also keeps you from getting asthma attacks from very cold or very hot weather.
If you have a pollen allergy, you might again consider moving your fitness routine inside. Alternately, you could check pollen levels and only go out when pollen counts are low. This is typically later in the day.
Whether you have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction or asthmatic symptoms in times outside of physical activity, you need to see a doctor or allergist, such as the professionals at Carolina Asthma and Allergy. During your appointment, your allergist may recommend breathing tests before, during and after exercising.
Besides testing, your allergist will also review your medical history and medications you take to rule out any other causes. Once you’re diagnosed with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, you can create an asthma management plan with your allergist. You may exercise at certain times, indoors versus outdoors, or only on certain days. Each plan will be different and should be tailored to your individual needs.
Your allergist may recommend tips to prevent the onset of an asthma attack from exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. For instance, focusing on nose breathing instead of mouth breathing is best, as the lungs get more warm air. If you must go outside, you might wear a face mask or a scarf around the nose and mouth to control symptoms. You may also stretch and warm up ahead of your workout, which is a good health tip in general. Medications like bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids may also help.
Everybody is different. The above methods and medications may work for some asthma sufferers but not all. Above all else, you must listen to your own body. If you try something and it’s not working, or if you sense an asthma attack is on its way, try to stop the activity you’re doing. This may or may not prevent the attack, but it’s worth trying.
When you have appointments set up with your allergist, it’s important to keep them. An asthma management plan is very rarely static. You might have to try different things as the seasons change. If the measures or medications your allergist suggested aren’t working for you, then don’t be afraid to say something.
If you have exercise-induced asthma, you may experience those symptoms for the rest of your life, but with proper control you can control and manage your asthma.
Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Ceasing it altogether is not recommended. Even though it may be difficult at times, keep seeing your allergist and trying different measures. Eventually, you should be able to find an exercise routine that works for you.
If you were recently diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma, you may not be sure what to do. You want to enjoy an active lifestyle, but each time you do, you’re punished for it with an asthma attack.
At Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, we’re here to help you. We’re specialists in asthma and allergies. Whether it’s exercise that triggers your asthmatic episodes, allergies or something else altogether, we can guide you in creating a management plan that works for your needs and lifestyle.
We have more than a dozen locations across North Carolina in Waverley, SouthPark, Mooresville, Huntersville, Gastonia, Concord, Eastover, University, Monroe, Hickory, Cornelius, Ballantyne and one in Rock Hill, SC too.
If you’d like to set up an appointment at any of our offices, we encourage you to contact us today. You can also ask any pertinent questions about our asthma treatments.
If exercise-induced asthma has you down, you don’t have to give up a healthy, active lifestyle altogether. Contact us at Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center today to make a major change in your life.
Please note: Due to healthcare privacy laws, we cannot answer any questions pertaining to personal health information by e-mail.