How Student Athletes Can Breathe Easy
With a new school year in session, some student athletes may find that performance and endurance may be affected by difficulty breathing.
Though lazy summer habits could certainly be to blame, breathing problems can also be attributed to exercise-induced airway constriction (EIA), the short-term airflow blockage that occurs with physical activity. While about 10% of the general population suffers from EIA, athletes show a higher prevalence.
Patients with normal lung functions at rest may have severe air flow blockage triggered by exercise. EIA also occurs in up to 90 percent of all patients with asthma and a significant number of patients with allergic rhinitis.
EIA is caused by the loss of heat, water or both from the lungs during exercise, as a result of quickly breathing-in air that is drier than what is already in the body.
The symptoms of EIA include shortness of breath, cough, chest tightness and wheezing. The symptoms usually appear within 6 to 10 minutes of beginning exercise, peak 8 to 15 minutes after the exercise is finished, and the entire incident is usually resolved within 60 minutes.
Certain sports are more likely to trigger exercise induced airway constriction than others because, as you begin to breathe faster, you introduce cold, dry air more rapidly into the lungs. This is why jogging or biking, especially in colder months, is particularly troublesome to individuals with EIA. Breathing through the nose or through a facemask reduces the loss of heat and moisture during vigorous activities and has been shown to decrease EIA.
Nasal blockage can worsen your exercise-related airway constriction because the blockage forces you to breathe through your mouth and the inspired air is not humidified and warmed first in the nose. Air pollutants, high pollen counts and viral respiratory tract infections also increase the severity of wheezing following exercise.
Luckily, you can treat exercise-induced airway constriction. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists, the allergy experts will assess your breathing by performing an exercise challenge procedure where patients are tasked to run. Then, the physicians will conduct a pulmonary function test to gauge lung health. The best part? The procedures are performed at any of their locations in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs.
Once diagnosed, the A&AS experts will determine the best course of treatment, whether that’s practiced breathing strategies or medication.
For athletes and rookies alike, exercise-induced airway constriction can be a real problem that potentially limits your ability to work out efficiently and healthily. If you think this is an issue for you, schedule an appointment today.
In the meantime, you can relieve EIA symptoms by taking these steps:
- Warm up with gentle exercises for about 15 minutes before you start more intense physical activity.
- Try to breathe through your nose while you exercise. This helps warm the air that goes into your lungs.
- Participate in sports that require only short bursts of activity—including volleyball, gymnastics, baseball, wrestling, golf, swimming, football, and short-term track-and-field events. These are less likely to cause EIA symptoms.
- Activities like walking, hiking and recreational biking are also beneficial to those with EIA symptoms.
Offices are located in Center City Philadelphia, King of Prussia, Blue Bell, Jenkintown, Doylestown, Lansdale, Collegeville and Pottstown. To schedule an appointment at an Allergy & Asthma Specialists location near you, call 1-800-86COUGH, extension 2 or visit their website today.