women walking You have just finished a great workout when you start coughing. You have a hard time breathing and your chest feels tight. Did you push yourself too hard? Maybe. But you are not out of shape. At least, you did not think so. But this is not the first time this has happened after you have exercised.

Sound familiar? If so, then you may have exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Simply put, EIA is asthma that is triggered by exercise. It most commonly strikes 5-10 minutes after exercise. It may go away 20-60 minutes after you are done exercising.

Symptoms include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excess mucus
  • Lacking endurance during exercise

Symptoms often increase when air pollutants, pollen, or cold, dry air is present. That is why EIA is more common in cold weather sports like speed skating, figure skating, and cross-country skiing.

It is not completely clear what causes EIA. A theory is that during exercise, you breathe differently, usually more quickly and through your mouth. This affects your lungs because the air that you are inhaling has not had time to be warmed and moistened, the way that it is when you breath through your nose. The cooler and dryer airways cause the muscles around the airways to tighten, which in turn leads to asthma symptoms

Certain factors increase your risk of developing EIA. For example, if you have asthma or severe rhinitis (hay fever), you may be more likely to experience EIA. It is also more prevalent in competitive athletes.