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“Exercise-induced asthma and sport? You bet!”

Andreas*, aged 35

An athlete is running through the woods.

Andreas* suffers from exercise-induced asthma. Since his medications have been correctly adjusted and he has started monitoring his inflammation values himself, he’s back in top form. But the road has been long.

“A year ago, I was training for my first triathlon. I’d always had more trouble breathing during sport than others. But back then I didn’t even know that I had exercise-induced asthma. I found out during a sports medical examination. The doctor carried out a spirometry test. He put a clamp on my nose and made me blow into a device that measures my maximum inhalation and exhalation. He was shocked when he looked at the results. My lung volume was a mere 60 percent. ‘You have asthma,’ he said. That was the end of my triathlon.

Exercise-induced asthma

  • Doctors speak of exercise-induced asthma when physical exertion triggers shortness of breath, a dry cough, or an asthma attack.
  • The symptoms occur either immediately during physical exertion or a few minutes afterwards.
  • Cold, dry air can exacerbate exercise-induced asthma.
  • Exercise-induced asthma is often accompanied by allergic asthma.
  • People who suffer from exercise-induced asthma should not have to give up doing sports because sport has many positive effects for patients: endurance sports, for example, strengthen the respiratory muscles.

Without knowing why, my life was restricted

After several examinations it became clear that I suffer from exercise-induced asthma. It was something of a lightbulb moment: That’s why I often had to cough when I exerted myself. That’s why I had trouble talking at length or climbing lots of stairs.

The first step was understanding the disease

Exercise-induced asthma means that when I exert myself physically, it brings on a coughing fit. This can even lead to an asthma attack. My doctor explained why: it’s because I breathe faster and my body loses fluids and heat. This changes something in the mucous membrane of my bronchi, causing an asthmatic reaction. The drier and colder the air I breathe and the more I exert myself, the worse the asthma can become.

The long search for the right therapy

My doctor prescribed medications, but I didn’t tolerate them well. I got palpitations and had to stop taking them. What could help me? I was keen to take up sports again! I finally found a good lung specialist who prescribed two different drugs and an emergency spray. He reassured me that I didn’t need to give up jogging or cycling. Quite the contrary: he advised me to regularly do endurance sports.

Endurance sports are good for asthmatics

My doctor says that practicing an endurance sport strengthens the respiratory muscles. And asthmatics who, like me, do sports, tend to have fewer symptoms and are admitted to hospital less often with severe asthma attacks. Active asthmatics also need less medication over time. Suitable sports for asthma sufferers include jogging, swimming, Nordic walking, yoga, dancing and cycling.

It’s OK for me to jog again

That was a huge relief. For me, running through the woods is therapeutic. It’s OK for me to jog again, so long as the inflammation levels in my bronchial tubes don’t shoot up. Therefore it’s important to be on top of it so that I can adapt my sports regime accordingly.

I’m back in charge

Now I’ve got a little helper, a device that lets me measure the degree of inflammation in my airways, known as the FeNO value, at home. This helps me to better gauge how much sport I can manage. Being able to monitor my condition puts me back in charge. Now I can cope better with the disease.

Knowing what’s good for me and what isn’t

When I do sports I always do a good warm-up and never start from zero to a hundred. Sprints aren’t my thing. I run at a steady pace. On vacation I avoid taking cable cars, because I have problems overcoming high altitude differences at speed. Visits to the sauna or icy temperatures aren’t good for me either, I just can’t breathe properly.

The more sport I do, the better I feel. My lung volume is at around 96 percent. And now I’ve signed up for a triathlon again.”

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*Names have been changed for reasons of privacy protection. These experience reports are for information purposes only and are no substitute for the advice provided by a physician. For more information about the experience reports, please check out the site details.