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What is exercise-induced asthma?

Exercise-induced asthma is a very common condition in which the airways in the lungs tighten up during or after exercise. This makes it more difficult for people to breathe.

What are the symptoms of exercise-induced asthma?

The most common symptoms of exercise-induced asthma include:

  • Shortness of breath 5-10 minutes after starting physical activity
  • Chest tightness
  • Cough or wheezing (a whistling sound heard best when breathing out)
  • In young children, avoiding physical activity or not feeling able to keep up with other children

Other symptoms (such as throat tightness) may suggest that something other than asthma may be causing your child’s difficulty breathing. It is important to describe your child’s symptoms in detail to your doctor so they can best help your child.

How do doctors treat exercise-induced asthma?

With the right treatment, almost all people with exercise-induced asthma can be just as physically active as those without asthma.

There are 2 common treatments for the condition:

  • Rescue medications, which treat asthma symptoms for a certain period of time, but not the underlying cause
  • Controller medications, which treat the underlying cause of the condition and help prevent asthma symptoms

When should I call the doctor?

Call your doctor if your child has difficulty breathing with exercise, even if your child is already using medication for asthma. Persistent symptoms despite asthma therapy may be a sign that your child’s medication needs to be adjusted. It can also mean your child’s symptoms are caused by something other than asthma. In either case, your child should be able to safely return to physical activity with appropriate treatment.

Rev. 10/2018. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.