Exercise-Induced Coughing Spasms

Female Runner finishing a run
A woman bent over resting after working out outside. (Image: Yobro10/iStock/Getty Images)

Heavy coughing during or after exercise is a sign of exercise-induced asthma, a condition that plagues the sufferer with asthma symptoms during exercise. If you have exercise-induced asthma, you experience bronchoconstriction when you work out. This means the bronchial tubes that carry oxygen to your lungs swell when you exercise. Being diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma does not mean you should skip exercise altogether. Instead, look for the best forms of exercise and ways to reduce your coughing fits.

Risk Factors

If you often end your workout with a coughing fit, you might have other risk factors for exercise-induced asthma. For instance, if you have been diagnosed with asthma, you're more at risk for the exercise-induced kind. Exercising in cold, dry climates can also trigger a coughing fit. Being overweight can contribute to your risk of the condition, as can being exposed to cigarette smoke or chemicals that are irritating to the lungs. If any blood relatives have asthma, you have a greater chance of experiencing exercise-induced asthma.

Symptoms

Coughing might be one of the most pronounced symptoms of exercise-induced asthma, but it likely isn't the only one. You might also experience wheezing, a tight feeling in the chest, accelerated heart rate and shortness of breath. Typically, these symptoms present 5 to 30 minutes after intense exercise, with relief coming after 30 minutes. The coughing spasms can be especially frustrating, as you might feel as though you have a tickle in your throat or need to crouch to rid your chest of tightness.

Treatment

Should you experience a coughing fit along with other symptoms, slow your level of activity until you can stop completely, but not suddenly. This will help you catch your breath and stop the coughing. Then make an appointment with your doctor. You might be prescribed a rescue inhaler to use when you exercise only. Follow your doctor's instructions when it comes to the usage of your rescue inhaler.

Prevention

You can make exercise easier for you by taking a few precautions before you begin exercising. Warming up and cooling down before and after exercising can help acclimate your body to exercise to avoid an attack. Choosing the right type of exercise can have a bearing on your symptoms as well -- look for exercise with frequent stops and starts to allow you to catch your breath. Swimming, in particular, is beneficial for asthma sufferers. If your doctor has prescribed a daily medication along with your rescue inhaler, ensure that you stay up to date on your meds so you can exercise in better comfort.

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