Tools and Resources

Exercise-induced asthma

Definition

If you cough, wheeze or feel out of breath during or after exercise, it may be more than exertion causing your symptoms. You might have exercise-induced asthma. As with asthma triggered by other things, exercise-induced asthma symptoms occur when your airways tighten and produce extra mucus.

If you have exercise-induced asthma also called exercise-induced bronchospasm (BRONG-ko-spaz-um) physical exertion may be the only thing that triggers your symptoms. Or, exercise may be just one of several things that trigger your asthma. But having exercise-induced asthma doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise. Proper treatment of exercise-induced asthma and precautions can keep you active whether you're strolling through the park or running a race.

Symptoms

Exercise-induced asthma symptoms can include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Fatigue during exercise
  • Poor athletic performance

Exercise-induced asthma symptoms may start a few minutes after you begin exercising, and they may continue to worsen for another 10 minutes or so after you've finished a workout. It's possible to have symptoms both during and after exercise.

Feeling a little short of breath or fatigued when you work out is normal, especially if you aren't in great shape. But with exercise-induced asthma, these symptoms can be more severe.

For many people, exercise is just one of a few asthma triggers. Others can include pollen, pet dander and other airborne allergens.

When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you cough, wheeze, or have chest pain or tightness during or after exercise. Many people don't realize they have exercise-induced asthma because they think these are their body's normal responses to working out. Don't assume your symptoms are caused by being out of shape or short on endurance.

Seek immediate medical treatment if you have worsening symptoms. Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening. Signs of an asthma attack that needs emergency treatment include:

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing that is quickly getting worse
  • No improvement even after using a rescue inhaler, such as an albuterol inhaler
  • Shortness of breath that continues even after you've recovered from your workout
Updated: 11/8/2011

© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "EmbodyHealth," "Enhance your life," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Legal restrictions and terms of use applicable to content provided to this site by MayoClinic.com/Mayo Clinic Health Information. Use thereof signifies your agreement to these terms of use.