Trailside Medicine: Don't Let Asthma Limit Your Exercise
Even if you don’t have asthma, you’ve probably seen asthma inhalers. Asthma is a common condition, and perhaps you’ve seen a fellow rider stop to use an inhaler after they’ve started breathing hard during a long climb on the trail. But what is asthma? And what does that inhaler actually do?
After we breath air in through the mouth, it passes through a branching network of airway tubes to get deep into the lungs. This is where oxygen transfers into the blood, and carbon dioxide gets out. In asthma, the airways tighten inappropriately, making it difficult for air to move. This may be triggered by a variety of causes, including pollen, molds, infection, cold air, or exercise. This can cause trouble breathing including chest tightness, cough, and wheezing (a whistling noise during exhalation).
Inhalers contain medicine that are inhaled into our lungs to cause the airways to relax so more air can flow through. For individuals who experience asthma symptoms while exercising, it can be helpful to use the medicine before exercise as well as during exercise. Fortunately, with proper education and the right medications, most people with asthma should be able to exercise as much as they desire.
If a person with asthma develops severe breathing difficulty, this should be treated as an emergency. Treatment at a hospital involves oxygen and additional medications.
Do you experience breathing difficulty that makes you wonder if you have asthma? There is a breathing test to find out. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
photo by Hansi Johnson