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Many people consider being out-of-breath from physical exertion a normal part of being active, but, if the symptoms are causing you distress, asthma likely is the culprit. Asthma commonly is triggered by physical activity, but allergens also can trigger asthma symptoms. Always consult with your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
If you have asthma, coughing and feeling winded are common symptoms during or after physical exertion. Chest tightness, wheezing and chest pain also are present during attacks. If your symptoms are brought on by physical activity, they are noticeable a few minutes after you begin exercising or within 10 minutes of resting from exercise. If allergies are triggering asthma, a runny nose, itchy eyes and sore throat often are present 1.
Asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the airways that causes your airways to shrink and produce excess mucus when a trigger is present, making it difficult to catch your breath. Common allergens that trigger asthma symptoms are pollen, mold, dust and animal dander. If you exercise in a location where these triggers are present, you likely are going to have difficulty catching your breath. If your asthma is triggered directly by physical activity, the symptoms most likely are going to occur in a cold and dry climate, such as outdoors during the winter or fall. Exercise tends to make you breathe through your mouth, so a large amount of air that’s colder than the air in your lungs is forced through your airways, causing the inflammatory response. Asthma symptoms tend to be worse if you’re overweight and out-of-shape.
Once your doctor has diagnosed the cause, a treatment plan is established. If exercise is the only cause of your shortness of breath, a short-acting beta-agonist inhaler is prescribed so you can take a few puffs shortly before exercising and have your airways open for several hours. Short-acting beta-agonist inhalers also can be used during an asthma attack. If you have asthma triggered by other causes, long-term control options, such as long-acting beta-agonist inhalers, steroids, leukotriene modifiers or mast cell stabilizers are prescribed to be taken daily. If allergies trigger your asthma symptoms, omalizumab, antihistamines or immunotherapy injections are common treatments.
Once a doctor has created a treatment plan, stick to it and take your medications as prescribed. If an allergen is causing the symptom, find ways of eliminating or reducing your exposure to the allergen. Keep your house clean and humidity levels low to reduce mold, avoid cigarette smoke and stay indoors if the pollen count is high. If exercise causes your symptoms, warm up and cool down for 15 minutes before and after exercising. If you exercise outdoors on cold days, wear a scarf over your nose and mouth. Always breathe through your nose while exercising since your nose warms, filters and moisturizes air entering the lungs. If you continue to have difficulties catching your breath, consider changing your exercise routine. Swimming provides warm and moist air during physical exertion that can reduce your symptoms. Do not avoid exercise since losing weight and building your endurance can help reduce shortness of breath during physical exertion.
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