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Exercise-Induced Asthma - Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Prevention

Written by
Dr. A. Srividya
and medically reviewed by Dr. Anjali

Published on May 04, 2022   -  6 min read


Asthma or narrowing of the airway can also occur due to brisk exercise. To know more about exercise-induced asthma, read the article below.


What Is Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), as referred to by the American thoracic society (ATS), is a transient phase of narrowing of the airways (bronchoconstriction) following exertion. It may or may not cause the clinical signs and symptoms associated with asthma and is largely reversible.

How Common Is Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is a common entity, occurring in almost 40 % to 90 % of the patients suffering from asthma. It can also occur in 20 % of the people who do not have a previous history of asthma. Therefore, around 30 % to 70 % of winter sports athletes suffer from the condition and seek help.

What Causes Exercise-Induced Asthma?

EIA is caused due to the sudden increase in the amount of air to be humidified and heated after entering the airways. This increase in demand causes neuronal, vascular, and inflammatory changes that clinically present as signs and symptoms of EIA.

What Is the Mechanism Involved in the Development of EIA?

The following mechanism is associated with EIA;

What Risk Factors Are Associated With EIA?

Factors contributing to the development of EIA include:

What Are the Clinical Signs and Symptoms Linked to EIA?

EIA patients many a time, remain undiagnosed due to the asymptomatic nature of the condition. Patients with symptoms start having the symptoms within eight minutes of vigorous exercise. The symptoms include:

How Long Do the Symptoms Associated With EIA Lasts?

The clinical manifestations of EIA usually start within eight to ten minutes of vigorous exercise. After initiation, the symptoms resolve spontaneously by thirty to ninety minutes with a refractory period of one to three hours. There is no initiation of the symptoms in the refractory period, even while performing exercises.

How Is EIA Diagnosed?

The clinical diagnosis of EIA is not very accurate. Direct and indirect testing methods along with spirometry provide more reliable results.

When to Go for a Consultation With a Specialist?

A consultation with a specialist is imperative if the coughing and wheezing do not stop for a long period and are increasingly making it difficult to breathe.

What Measures Are Adopted to Manage Patients Suffering From Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Either pharmacologic interventions or non-pharmacologic interventions primarily do management of exercise-induced asthma.

How Are the Symptoms Associated With EIA Reduced?

The perception of symptoms associated with EIA are managed with:

How to Prevent EIA?

EIA can be controlled in the following ways:

How Should EIA Patients Exercise?

Patients can follow a few simple measures while exercising to avoid EIA:

What Conditions Are Similar to Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Narrowing of the airway and subsequent coughing, wheezing, and difficulty in breathing associated with EIA are difficult to diagnose clinically. The following conditions should be ruled out before forming a conclusive diagnosis:

What Are the Complications of Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Complications of exercise-induced asthma usually include its sequelae, such as lack of exercise, poorly controlled asthma, and reduction in physical activity.

What Is the Prognosis of EIA?

With proper management, people suffering from exercise-induced asthma can also perform the same exercises as their counterparts. Even athletes can continue with their sports and eventually enroll in competitions.


Exercise-induced bronchitis is a common condition encountered by both asthmatic and non-asthmatic patients. It is often misdiagnosed due to the absence of characteristic clinical features. Proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment and preventive strategies improve exercising tolerance in these patients.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
04 May 2022  -  6 min read




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