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Question : I'm 40 years old, and lately I've been wheezing when I play tennis. Can I get asthma at my age?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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February 21, 2014
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You can get asthma as an adult without ever having had it in childhood. And your wheezing might be caused by asthma. But it also can be caused by other conditions.

Wheezes are musical sounds produced somewhere in your respiratory system. Sometimes they happen when you breathe in, and sometimes when you breathe out. They signal impaired airflow somewhere in your respiratory system.

Is the only time you wheeze is when you play tennis or do other exercise? Then you may have what doctors now call “exercise induced bronchoconstriction.” People with this disorder only have symptoms when they exercise, especially if the air is very dry. At the present time, doctors don’t know why a person develops this.

Wheezing can also be a symptom of:

  • Allergies
  • Persistent airway inflammation after a bout of viral bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), usually in people who smoke, or used to
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs from heart failure

You should definitely see your doctor.

If this is just exercise induced bronchoconstriction, treatment is usually simple. You take a couple puffs of an albuterol inhaler 15–20 minutes before playing tennis or doing other exercise. But you want to be sure that the diagnosis is correct.

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