Some children develop asthma attacks only after exercise, and most people with asthma are susceptible to attacks brought on by exercising or participating in sports. Typically, these attacks occur after six to 10 minutes of vigorous exercise.
Most attacks are brief, lasting only a few minutes, but some can continue for hours and may require medication. Symptoms of exercise-induced asthma typically include coughing, tightness in the chest or wheezing and shortness of breath.
Running, jogging and vigorous sports that result in mouth-breathing are most likely to trigger an exercise-induced asthma attack — especially when done in cold, dry air. Cold-weather sports, such as ice hockey and skiing, are also likely to provoke an attack in susceptible people. That's because exercise-induced asthma usually stems from a loss of heat and moisture in tissues lining the respiratory tract as the result of inhaling large amounts of cold, dry air.
These attacks can often be prevented by taking medication before exercise, doing warm-up exercises before your workout or participating in sports in warm, humid environments, such as an indoor swimming pool. In fact, swimming is the ideal sport for those with exercise-induced asthma because the air above the water line is warm and humid.
Having asthma doesn't mean you can't be an active athlete. Still, if you have exercise-induced asthma or are susceptible to attacks when you exercise, you may need to take medication before doing physical activities in very cold weather and when pollen counts are high, air quality is poor or you have a cold or other respiratory tract infection.