Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Exercise-Induced Asthma

It happens so infrequently, maybe eight times per year.

It happens when I push too hard. But I push too hard a few times per week. Usually, pushing too hard just makes me huff and puff. Sometimes, if I push too hard for a long time, I get dizzy, too. This is different.

It happened again last night.

After some of the usual huffing and puffing, my chest tightens. Something isn't right.

Seconds later, I feel a tickle in my throat. It's followed by audible wheezing.

Within minutes, I'm coughing, and there's a lot of phlegm building up.

From there, my lungs feel like they're rubbed raw or on fire. If you've ever had a coughing fit that's lasted several days, you know what this kind of bronchitis feels like. You can't breathe all the way in, nor can you breathe all the way out. You have to take short, metered breaths or the consequences of more coughing await. More coughing leads to more irritation.

Within an hour or so, the wheezing goes away, so does the bronchitis feeling. It leaves behind a cough that lasts a day or two.

I've heard that Exercise-Induced Asthma affects a good portion of the world's top athletes, so it stands to reason that it also affects lots of people like me, who are still out of shape but are doing something to get some exercise.

Now, I just need to figure out what in the world is triggering it. There's no specific season where it happens more than others. It doesn't seem to be related only to air temperature or humidity, but I can "force" it to happen if I don't keep my mouth covered in sub-freezing weather and do some high-effort stuff that forces me to breathe through my mouth.

I suppose I should probably go see a sports-medicine doctor or someone who can help me pinpoint the cause so I know how to stop it before it starts. I'll be honest. This would be a lot less frustrating if it happened every time I pushed really hard. I don't like being taken by surprise like this.


Yokota Fritz said...

From the photo with the cookie I thought cholesterol or something at first.

Drugs do wonders, FWIW.

Sirrus Rider said...

Unless, you have lungs like mine where the bronchi are naturally too narrow.

Anonymous said...


I would definitely go to the doctor.

A good part of what you described could also be heart disease.

John in Calgary said...

Hi Noah,

For all you know it may be happening every time you push hard. It's just that bronchospasm can be variable. Sometimes it may be so mild that you think you are just working up a sweat, but sometimes it can be more extreme and cause audible wheezing and shortness of breath. I think that you are right....it would be worth having someone test your breathing under exerice inducing conditions. Your family doctor or a sports medicine doctor with interest in asthma may be your best bet. Some asthmatic folks will use a puffer before any exercising to prevent effort induced asthma symptoms. Your daily cycling performance could go up significantly just with an accurate diagnosis and specific treatment...now wouldn't that be nice.

Noah said...

Great input, guys! I really appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

My wife also suffers from exercise induced asthma. It's most noticeable for her in the late spring when we start getting out for pre-dawn tandem rides when the temps are still kind of nippy. Two things help her. 1) Albuterol inhalers...they're cheap and a good quick fix if you remember to take it 20-30 minutes before exercising. 2) As you've noted, keep your mouth covered.

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