I'd like an order of asthma to go
October 19, 2011 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Please give me your tips on combining running with exercise induced asthma.

I am fairly out of shape but I am nearing the end of a couch-to-5k program. I can run up to 35 minutes consistently and I do a 15 minute mile. I am happy with my improvements in these areas. But as I push myself harder and the weather is getting colder, my exercise-induced asthma is threatening to flare up during my runs. I've managed to avoid a full-on attack by scaling back when my throat starts to hurt, but I want to run faster and longer. I only was diagnosed with EIA as an adult so I don't really know how to deal with it very well. Please give me your tips and best practices for mild asthma and exercise.

1) I am not interested in switching to swimming or an exercise other than running at this time.
2) Seattle, air is pretty moist, it's not that cold yet but it will get colder.
3) I don't own an inhaler, and asthma attacks I've had in the past have been exclusively exercise related and never life-threatening.
4) I am jogging with a stroller, I don't usually carry water because I haven't been needing it.
posted by bq to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I bike rather than run but I always take a pre-emptive puff of my blue inhaler before leaving, and carry it with me just in case. I rarely need it once I'm moving, as long as I've taken that puff beforehand.

So I guess my suggestion is to go to the GP and explain your situation, and get a prescription for Ventolin/Albuterol (sorry, I've forgotten the US name). The GP may also have suggestions beyond my own.
posted by tracicle at 12:38 PM on October 19, 2011

I don't run for other reasons, but swimming is great for my asthma (maybe it's the humid air?)

Otherwise, own an inhaler and pretreat.

I find I'm more likely to flare up if I go from full-speed to a stop quickly; I really have to be careful about warming down. For example when hiking, if everyone else wants to stop suddenly, I just keep pacing around because otherwise a sudden stop means the inhaler. For you this might mean being sure to jog around if you get stuck at a light.

Consider a method to warm up your air before it gets in to your lungs, since cold air is a trigger for you. (Loose scarf? Breathe your nose, as if that were possible?) Maybe you can find a way to run indoors?

Are you sure you don't need the water? Being well hydrated always makes my lungs feel better, too.

Oh, and if you have any *other* asthma triggers (allergies, particular foods, etc) be sure to take care of those as much as possible too.
posted by nat at 12:46 PM on October 19, 2011

I also have asthma that's exacerbated by exercising in the cold. I curl once a week so... The trick is the use an inhaler right before I start. One puff and I'm good to go for a couple of hours. On rare occasions I've needed it afterwards but mostly I'm fine otherwise.

In the rest of my life I only use the inhaler sparingly, and I don't have any other asthma meds.
posted by marylynn at 12:46 PM on October 19, 2011

Keep your nose and mouth covered while you run to protect from cold air, which will make the asthma worse. And get an inhaler (a rescue inhaler, like albuterol) and carry it with you at all times while running. tracicle is right, pretreat with the inhaler before you start running and you should notice way less discomfort.
posted by crankylex at 12:47 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have exercise induced asthma that makes running difficult, and from advice I've seen on here, I went out and got an inhaler. It made a significant difference!
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 12:54 PM on October 19, 2011

I was terrified of running because of my asthma. Anything that makes my breathing increase like that and threaten to get short ends up scaring me. But I too have started a C25k program and have been doing well with the asthma thanks to my inhaler. I don't use a rescue inhaler like albuterol unless I get an attack. My asthma is managed pretty well with one puff of Qvar every morning. I can tell when I don't use it. Your asthma might not need maintenance like that, but I have to encourage an inhaler also. I don't know as there is anything else that will really help. Using one before exercise is really common and your doctor should have no problem prescribing. It doesn't cost a lot and will help you significantly. I hadn't thought about trying to cover your nose and mouth, but I feel that might help as well.
posted by itsacover at 1:01 PM on October 19, 2011

I'm a runner with EIA. It is worse with cold air, so I run with something covering them. I take a puff before I run and then during or after if necessary. The longer that I have been running, the less I find I need it.
posted by runnergirl at 1:07 PM on October 19, 2011

Seconding the get an inhaler, if you don't want to pretreat at least have it for emergencies since you know you are pushing (In CC I knew a lot of people that kept them in a bra or athletic taped to their stomach or something like that). I found that my EIA got better as I built up endurance and swimming vastly improved things to the point that I don't use an inhaler at all anymore. There are a few other things you can do if you feel a flare up coming to prevent or counteract it, I'd recommend talking to your GP about that as IANAD (breathing regulation type techniques).
posted by Feantari at 1:18 PM on October 19, 2011

I am not a doctor, but you may want to get an objective and medically-based lung function from one. Just because you breathe ok most of the time doesn't mean that your asthma isn't a problem. You could have small airway inflammation, which can erode your lung function over time.

I see lots of folks have recommended a rescue inhaler (albuterol), and that works for some people, but not for everyone. For some people, relying on only a rescue inhaler can put you at risk for a big attack some day, like what I experienced. Because I have big lungs, and my peak flows were always over 100% of what most people my age and size have (even when I struggle to breathe), I didn't think my asthma was dangerous either. I felt fine, and when I didn't I used a little albuterol. One day, I had a quick and unexpected asthma attack, and the albuterol didn't work. I was pulled off a train and put into an ambulance, not breathing and without a pulse. I had a massive asthma attack and bronchitis at the same time (my first big attack ever). I later learned I had small airway inflammation, which is now under control with medication.

Get an assessment. You'll learn the true state of your lungs, and what your options are.
posted by answergrape at 1:30 PM on October 19, 2011

Yeah, I use my albuterol inhaler about 10 or 15 minutes before I leave the house, and take it with me just in case. And the cooler and drier the air, the more it hurts my lungs. (I actually thought I was breathing OK, too, until I got tested by my doctor, who said 'Wow" at the results.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:47 PM on October 19, 2011

I switched from swimming to running over the past year and I've found that a combination of eating stuff that is less likely to give me "the wheeze" [usually low dairy, low wheat] and then taking a puff of an Albuterol inhaler before my workout and staying hydrated and I'm fine. Check with your doc, obviously, but that's what has worked for me. And yeah take it very easy in the cold air because it's worse at those times.
posted by jessamyn at 2:09 PM on October 19, 2011

Nthing get an inhaler and take a puff before you hit the track.
posted by smoke at 4:22 PM on October 19, 2011

Go see a doctor if you can. I have exercise-induced asthma and my doctor specifically told me that I should switch off of the standard blue inhaler. I now use Symbicort (wikipedia link), which is supposed to also help prevent attacks and lower their effects/frequency over time. It definitely works for me, but your mileage may vary. I take it about half an hour or so before exercise and while sprints still leaving me hurting at times, I just ran a half-marathon the other day. Without the puffer, I doubt I could do a 5k without collapsing.
posted by dnesan at 7:48 PM on October 19, 2011

I have been thinking about asking this question! Covering my nose and mouth definitely occurred to me, but I can't figure out what to use. (I have tried breathing through my nose, but it just makes my nose hurt.) Any ideas for what is good for this? I feel very silly about the idea of using a bandanna like an old-school bandit. I have a Smartwool gaiter but I get too sweaty too quickly except on the coldest days. I am also in Seattle, so it is damp (wool is good) but mostly in the 40s in winter, rarely below freezing.
posted by librarina at 8:21 PM on October 19, 2011

In Japan people use surgical masks. I understand they're not just to filter out pollen/nasties, but also to keep one's mucous membranes from getting dry.

I found this as well, if the idea of running around in a surgical mask is too weird.
posted by ZeroDivides at 8:48 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

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