The Sport Information Resource Centre
The Sport Information Resource Centre

Asthma is associated with a condition where an irritant causes difficulty breathing. Commonly, allergic asthma is caused by a reaction to environmental concerns such as pollen or animal dander. However, more and more athletes and exercisers are finding themselves breathless due to more than just exertion. Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is becoming more prevalent and its causes are unclear and differ by person.

Common triggers that activate EIA include cold and/or dry air. During normal breathing we breathe through our nose which serves to warm, humidify, and cleanse the air we inhale. This makes it more resemble the air in our lungs. When we exercise, we breathe more through our mouths and this air is colder and drier when it reaches our lungs. This contrast in cold and warm air is what can trigger an asthma attack. Also pollen, pollution and chemicals such as paint fumes also can trigger EIA by introducing an irritant to the respiratory system. The body reacts to the irritant to fight it off causing inflammation that leads to mucus production and bronchospasm.

Individuals should consult a medical professional if they are experiencing one or any combination of symptoms such as:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest Tightness
  • Chest Pain
  • Prolonged Shortness of Breath
  • Extreme Fatigue

Exercise-Induced Asthma is treatable and does not mean that you can’t exercise. According to the Canadian Lung Association “As long as your asthma is under control, exercising is recommended to keep your lungs and body in good shape”.


Thompson, D.L. (2009). Exercise-Induced Asthma. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 13(4), 4.