By: Amy Watson ATC,PES
DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan
Have you ever experienced tightness in your chest at the beginning of your run or when you are running really hard? Had a cough after you stopped running? Do you feel like you are struggling with fatigue in your training or having a hard time getting better? You potentially are struggling with exercise induced asthma, which is also known as exercise induced bronchoconstriction. Running is considered a high risk activity for this condition, as well as swimming, biking, and hiking.
Exercise induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) is not the same as asthma. Asthma is the chronic inflammation of the airways that causes narrowing and decreased airflow. EIB is the narrowing of the airways triggered by exercise. A person could technically suffer from both conditions.
EIB symptoms typically are at the beginning of the workout and/or shortly after finishing. Some symptoms can last greater than 24 hours. EIB Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Upset stomach
- Sore throat
- Inability to improve
- Decreased endurance
Symptoms are typically triggered by high or low temps, dry air, humidity, and environmental factors like pollen and air pollution. Having other allergies, like seasonal allergies, can add to the irritation factors. A Finnish study tested 103 runners and found 52% had evidence of EIB and of those 58% also had other allergies as well.
If you are experiencing any of theses symptoms see your primary doctor or an allergy and asthma specialist. They will take a history and perform spirometry and other testing to help make a diagnosis. Ignoring symptoms over time can potentially lead to permanent decrease in lung function because of constant irritations. It is very important to be diagnosed to avoid this. If you are diagnosed with EIB you will most likely be placed on a bronchodilator inhaler which you use 15-30 minutes prior to exercise. You may also need other medication depending on your specific diagnosis.
You can still keep running with a diagnosis of EIB! Keep that inhaler close and don’t forget to use it. Schedule your run around extreme temps or the time of day where there are lower conditions of allergens and air pollution. If it is really cold, cover your mouth to help warm the air on its way in. Breathe through your nose until you are feeling better. A minimum of a five minute warm-up prior to activity has also been shown to help. Start with a slow run with intermittent fast paces for at least 30 seconds. If your ever feeling dizzy or faint while running make sure you stop, relax, and use the inhaler as needed. Severe wheezing, coughing, or difficulty breathing that is not improving after using your inhaler is a medical emergency.
I personally deal with many of these symptoms and did have testing done. As long as I use my inhaler and keep my allergies in control, I have minimal issues. Get yourself checked, so you can get back to running and breathing easier!
Amy Watson is a certified athletic trainer and an avid runner with many marathons under her belt. To make an appointment with a physician or therapist that specializes in running injuries at the Detroit Medical Center and Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, call 313-910-9328.