A Few Questions About Asthma, Exercise and Heredity

Fred Little Health Pro
  • Can I still play sports if I have asthma?


    Wheezing associated with exercise is quite common, and can be effectively treated so that exercise, an important part of healthy living, can continue.

    Many people with asthma note that their asthma gets worse with exercise. And some people wheeze only when they exercise. These people have a common type of asthma called exercise-induced asthma. An important feature of wheezing that is triggered by exercise is that is commonly kicks in after someone has finished exercising. This is often puzzling to patients but is common.

    Asthma can also be triggered in some people by cold air; this is sometimes worse when patients with cold air-induced asthma exercise. While teasing apart the mechanism of this is of interest to scientists, from the patient’s standpoint there is little difference - they may say, “My asthma gets worse with exercise in the winter.” With exercise, our breathing rate increases and we take deeper breaths. This increases the amount of cold air that gets deep into the lungs, making asthma triggered by cold air in susceptible individuals worse than if at rest.
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    The good news is that exercise-induced wheezing can be largely controlled by taking a quick-relief inhaler medication, such as albuterol, 10-15 minutes before exercise (or exposure to cold air, for that matter). People with more severe asthma should consult their doctor to be sure which type of exercise is safe for them.

    Many asthmatics continue to enjoy regular exercise and play sports with small changes in the way they take their medications. How to make these changes should be decided with your regular doctor.

    Is asthma hereditary?

    While asthma is not inherited like hemophilia or cystic fibrosis, in which children have a predictable chance of having the disorder their parents have, it does seem to run in families. For example, children for whom both parents have asthma are not ‘guaranteed’ to develop asthma, but they are much more likely to develop asthma than children whose parents do not have asthma.

    This type of ‘partial inheritance’ is common to hayfever as well. As discussed in last month’s blog, allergies and asthma are closely connected. It is no coincidence that developing asthma and allergies have similar ways of running in families.

    Do you have questions about asthma? Let us know in the message boards.
Published On: June 16, 2006