Controlling Exercise-Induced Asthma without Medication

And what if it isn’t asthma at all?

Head Team Physician for Washington State University Athletics discusses a method for controlling exercise-induced asthma without medication, and proposes that some cases of asthma in athletes are misdiagnosed from the beginning.

The temperature is dropping more day by day, but you still have to train.  If you take time off due to cold weather, you can kiss your dreams of your new PR goodbye.

But you have exercise-induced asthma- a shortness of breath or wheezing due to the airways narrowing during physical exertion.

Training in the winter isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for you.  The dryness in the air can dehydrate your bronchial tubes causing them to restrict your air flow.

Most athletes with this diagnosis just carry their inhaler and take 2 puffs 20-30 minutes before exercise.  But do you really want to be dependent on this every time you train… forever!?

To find a better solution for you, we talked to Dr. Dennis Garcia, the Head Team Physician for Washington State University Athletics, and he brought up an interesting idea.

Trigger an Attack

“There are some people that can trigger a minor asthma attack with light exercise,” Dr. Garcia says, “and then wait approximately 30-40 minutes, start again, and complete their exercise with no apparent problems.”

This advice should not be a substitute for getting a proper medical evaluation. Rocket Pure recommends that you see your personal doctor before attempting any new asthma-controlling techniques.

Dr. Garcia’s recipe for controlling exercise-induced asthma:

  • About 30 minutes before you begin training, head on outside
  • Do some short, burst activities like sprints for about 3-4 minutes
  • Induce a mild asthmatic reaction
  • Head back inside, or just stop exercising for about half an hour
  • This should bring your body into a refractory period which can last up to 2 hours for some people
  • You should then be able to venture out for your vigorous workout and not develop any more symptoms

This method may not work for everyone, so you might want to keep your prescribed inhaler on hand just in case.

About 40% of people with exercise-induced asthma also have allergic rhinitis- or allergies.  This is when your immune system overreacts to particles in the air that you breathe- causing symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose. Getting proper treatment for allergies can help your exercise-induced asthma tremendously.

Other asthma prevention techniques are wearing a mask or scarf to warm cold air before breathing it in, avoiding exercise when you have a cold, and working out inside instead of braving the weather.

If medications and treatments still leave you with symptoms, Dr. Garcia explains that you may not have asthma at all.

One of his athletes at WSU experienced frequent asthma attacks in the middle of soccer practice.  She would use her inhaler, but never found relief.

One day Dr. Garcia went to practice so that he could observer her attack.

“I listened to her lungs and could quickly tell that this was not asthma,” he explained.

He diagnosed her with vocal cord dysfunction instead, and, with the help of a speech therapist, she was able to control her spasms.  She required no further treatment or medications.

Dr. Garcia says he has seen several examples of this misdiagnosis.

So instead of letting the winter weather and your asthma symptoms keep you from reaching your new PR, make sure you’re properly diagnosed, try Dr. Garcia’s recipe, and train on my friends!

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