When I was 21, I had bronchitis. My lungs made crackling and popping noises like rice crispies cereal. I was short of breath and my PCP gave me an inhaler. Next month, I got really short of breath again. TH (then The Boyfriend) got me to a hospital where I thought I’d do a breathing treatment and be on my way. I spent 2 nights in the hospital.

Despite the dramatic entrance into adult-onset asthma, I have had no serious incidents since. I have some environmental triggers – I use my inhaler if I’m going to a bar, drinking, experiencing secondhand smoke, and the weather is cold (basically, Halloween), but my symptoms are primarily exercise-induced.

I always use my inhaler BEFORE I go run or swim.  I can maintain a slow pace without it, but don’t feel comfortable pushing myself in speed or distance. My chest feels tighter and heavier than usual.

exercise-induced asthma My inhalers and flow meter

My inhalers and flow meter

I saw a cool article last week. Scientists in Brazil published a study where running helped decrease asthma symptoms. The subjects had moderate to severe asthma and performed breathing exercises OR breathing exercises + 35 minute treadmill runs x 2/week. After 3 months, the control group showed no changes. The treadmill group showed increased oxygen intake, increased quality of life (measured by questionnaire), and could tolerate double the amount of triggering substances before having symptoms.

That makes sense to me. Healthy respiratory systems see improvement with aerobic exercise, so asthmatic respiratory systems should see improvement as well.

You guys stay safe out there, listen to your body, and get medical care when necessary. I’m not a doctor and my exercise-induced asthma symptoms are well-managed, but I do have some tips for keeping things under control.

5 Tips for Exercise-Induced Asthma

  1. I run in warm, humid air (hello, Savannah). I know cold, dry air can trigger me so I wear a cloth over my mouth to warm the air if needed.
  2. I hold my breath when I run by someone smoking in the park. The smoke can mess me up for a quarter-mile or more. Also, I watch pollen counts during the spring.
  3. I should avoid irritants like aerosol sunscreen before running, but it’s so convenient…
  4. If I start coughing, I know I need to back off. Coughing is a symptom of asthma.
  5. I use my flow meter (it measures how hard you can blow air) if I need more data. I should probably use it regularly and keep track.

Do you have asthma? How do you manage it with running?