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Exercise and asthma: Why am I so winded?

Breathe easier — and stay active — with an action plan that’s right for you

If asthma symptoms have you sitting on the bench, it’s time to call a new play.

You need an asthma action plan to get back in the game.

Exercise-induced asthma is a narrowing of the airways in the lungs that’s triggered by physical activity. For people who have chronic asthma, it means exercise is just one of the things that cause their symptoms. But some otherwise healthy people only have asthma attacks when they’re physically active.

Asthma symptoms can cause people to shy away from being active. But that’s not a healthy solution. What’s a better idea? Work with your doctor on a treatment plan that helps you get the exercise you need.*

With the right asthma care plan, most people can get out and be active. In fact, many athletes are able to manage asthma — and compete at the highest levels.

Taking your breath away

The symptoms of exercise-induced asthma typically occur soon after starting or stopping exercise. They may include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest

Cold, dry air can also irritate airways — making symptoms worse. And sports that keep you on the move — such as running, soccer or cross-country skiing — are more likely to trigger asthma.

Your action plan

If you have asthma symptoms during exercise, let your doctor know. He or she can help determine if you have exercise-induced asthma.

Tracking your symptoms — when they start or get worse, for example — may be helpful to you and your doctor. Your doctor can help you with a treatment plan — an asthma action plan — that allows you to do the activities you enjoy.

Your plan may include asthma control medications that help prevent symptoms, as well as a quick-relief medication — such as an inhaler. It’s important to take or use these as prescribed by your doctor. Your plan should also include what to do in case symptoms get worse.

What to do next

If you have asthma, make sure you have an up-to-date action plan. Here’s a sample form that can be filled out with your doctor.(Opens a new window)

A is for Asthma

Millions of young children have asthma. However, children with asthma can lead healthy, active lives. The key is following a plan to control your child’s asthma and prevent attacks. Knowing the facts and being prepared will help keep your child healthy — and allow everyone to breathe a little easier.

Explore the tools in Sesame Street’s “A is for Asthma” kit(Opens a new window): Read quick facts, download resource guides and more!

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*Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.

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