Exercise-induced asthma

Medical Specialties: Allergy/immunology, Family practice, Pulmonology

Clinical Definition

Exercise-induced asthma is a condition in which bronchospasm, airway inflammation and increased mucus production result from physical exertion or exercise. Exercise is a trigger for asthma exacerbation for the following reasons: During physical exercise, hyperventilation and oral breathing often occur. The air is not humidified and warmed through the nasal passages. Cold, dry air irritates the bronchial lining in individuals who are susceptible to triggering asthma symptoms. 

In Our Own Words

When asthma symptoms are caused by exercise, the condition is called exercise-induced asthma. Normally when a person inhales, the air is filtered through the nose. It is warmed and moistened before it reaches the lungs. During exercise, breathing is faster and done through the mouth, where the air is not warmed or moistened. The cold, dry air can irritate the airways in some people. The airways can become narrow, thus causing mucus to increase and breathing to become difficult.


It’s important to understand having exercise-induced asthma does not mean a person should not exercise. Treatments are available, which may be recommended to take before exercise, in order to prevent inducing any symptoms.  

Relevant Conditions
  • Asthma
  • Obesity
Side Effects
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness
Share this article
  • American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. “Asthma and exercise: Tips to Remember.” http://www.aaaai.org. Accessed September 2013.
  • Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America. “Exercised-Induced Asthma.” http://www.aafa.org. Accessed September 2013.
  • Columbia University Medical Center. “Asthma and Exercise.” http://www.cumc.columbia.edu. Accessed September 2013.
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