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Exercise-Induced Cough in Children

By Lindsay Tadlock ; Updated August 14, 2017

If your child is coughing only during exercise, it is most likely from a condition called exercise-induced asthma. According to Kids Health, up to 90 percent of children have asthma symptoms when they exercise. Just because your child has exercise-induced coughing does not mean he should avoid any particular exercise. With proper treatment, your child should be able to do any intense aerobic activities, without coughing or asthma slowing him down.

Exercise-Induced Asthma

Children who cough or feel out of breath during or after exercise may have exercise-induced asthma, or exercise-induced bronchospasm. This condition occurs when your child's airways tighten and produce extra mucus. The only trigger for this type of asthma is physical exertion.


According to, it is not clear why some children get asthma and some don't. It is also not clear what causes exercise-induced asthma. Factors that trigger this type of cough include cold and dry air, high pollen counts, having a respiratory infection and chemicals such as paint, fertilizers and herbicides.


Symptoms of this type of asthma include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, fatigue during exercise and shortness of breath. These symptoms usually start a few minutes after your child begins to exercise and peak a few minutes after stopping the exercise. The symptoms may take an hour or longer to subside. The difference between being out of shape and having exercised-induced asthma is that the out-of-shape child can catch her breath within minutes, whereas the child with exercise-induced asthma may take much longer to recover.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing exercise-induced asthma include already having asthma triggered by other things, having a parent or sibling with asthma, being exposed to secondhand smoke or air pollution, being overweight and having hay fever or other allergies. Children generally are more active than adults, therefore they have a higher risk of having exercise-induced asthma.


Your child should see a doctor if she is coughing during or after exercise. Most children will find relief from a quick-relief inhaler right before exercising to control the symptoms. This will quickly open the airways for several hours. Some children may need daily, long-term control medications if the inhaler does not provide relief during exercise.


There is no way to prevent exercise-induced asthma. Your child can try to keep the symptoms under control by warming up for 15 minutes prior to strenuous exercise, avoiding respiratory infections and not exercising when she has an infection, avoiding allergens and breathing through her nose during exercise.

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