Cycling can bring a wealth of fitness to your life, but it can also bring one unwanted thing: Asthma. Many elite cyclists, as well as hobby cyclists, suffer from asthma, and many wonder why. Many do not start out their hobby or careers with this issue, so why does it develop? Can it be avoided? Regardless if we can avoid cycling-induced asthma, it is life-changing, but it doesn’t have to derail your cycling dreams.
The cause of EIA – Exercise-Induced Asthma – isn’t entirely known, but it could be due to the elements are inflammation in the body from exercise. Since asthma is an inflammatory disease, this makes sense. Allergens, the change in air quality and temperature, allergens – they all affect the body in various ways. A change can promote inflammation, and boom: Asthma. Symptoms of asthma, whether chronic or exercise induced, vary from person to person; but the most common ones include shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, coughing, fatigue, and decreased athletic performance. Some may even has issues up to 30 minutes after cycling. If lungs are constantly in a state of inflammation, this irritation could cause a permanent decrease in lung function over time, and could eventually lead to chronic asthma.
Depending on a person’s type of asthma (chronic or exercise-induced), as well as the level of activity and triggers, long-term damage may be a factor. Those who require hospitalization from severe attacks have scarring on their lungs, and this scarring can cause issues later in life. EIA is best managed when a patient and their doctor work together to identify, eliminate, and control triggers. Your doctor can help you find the most effective preventative and maintenance medications and form an asthma emergency plan. Even if you have already been evaluated, it is important to monitor how the medications are working. Your doctor will determine if you have asthma by measuring how well you breathe with a spirometry test, a peak flow meter to see how fast you can force air out of your lungs, or an exercise to see how exertion affects you. The tests are simple – and can be done at your yearly check-up.
EIA is often treated with the same medications used for a standard asthma diagnosis, but perhaps at a lower dose, and used only before and during exercise. The most common medications prescribed for EIA include short-acting inhaled bronchodilators (inhalers) that are used prior to exercise in order to relax and open up the airway. Other medications your doctor may prescribe include longer combinations of acting bronchodilators and inhaled steroids (Advair), mast cell stabilizers (Cromolyn), and leukotriene modifiers (Singulair). Some may only need a rescue inhaler once in awhile, while others may need daily preventative medication.
EIA is life-changing, but it should not affect your cycling dreams. If you have the least bit of discomfort, you should consult your doctor. It is better to detect EIA before it gets out of hand – and early detection can help you stay healthier, longer.