Asthma

Exercise-induced asthma can develop suddenly, but can be managed with a pulmonologist

 

mmedina@MiamiHerald.com

Kelly O’Boyle has always been an athlete. As a child, she played lacrosse, basketball, soccer and softball. In high school, she ran track. At the University of Miami, she rows.

Two years ago, when she was rowing six days a week, she noticed it was getting harder to breathe. She went to a doctor, who diagnosed her with exercise-induced asthma, a condition that affects both people with underlying asthma or without any symptoms of chronic asthma.

“Unless I’m giving 110 percent, I’m fine,” said O’Boyle.

The condition can affect anyone, but athletes who play cold weather sports and people with asthma are a higher risk of having bronchoconstriction, or tightening of the airways, said Dr. Richard Lockey, professor of medicine at the University of South Florida and fellow at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

In O’Boyle’s case, she wasn’t rowing in freezing waters, but she was overdoing herself.

“I was surprised by it,” said O’Boyle, 20. “I thought asthma was something you had as a kid.”

O’Boyle had been seeing Dr. Lauren Fine, an allergy, asthma and immunology doctor at the University of Miami, for seasonal allergies. Fine believes O’Boyle always had the condition, but it hadn’t manifested itself she began the rowing regimen.

“Exercise-induced asthma is asthma that is triggered by active duty,” Fine said. “Basically, it’s people that have no asthma at any other time than when they exercise.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 18.7 million adults had asthma in 2010, and the numbers are getting worse. In the last decade, the number of people with asthma in the United States grew by nearly 15 percent.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology says wheezing, tightness in the chest, coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain, although rare, are possible signs of the condition, if they present themselves within five to 20 minutes after starting exercise.

Fine explains that the function of the airways is to warm and moisten the air we breathe, but when it is done too fast, like during exercise, sometimes the body cannot keep up.

“It’s like asking your air conditioner to cool your house that’s over 100 degrees, 24 hours a day,” she said. “At some point, it’s going to give up.”

O’Boyle has kept up her six-day-a-week rowing, but now uses an inhaler.

“We recommend that anybody that has EIA or asthma at all, exercise to the best of their comfort level three to four days a week, 30 to 40 minutes,” she said.

Fine says some endurance and cold weather sports, like skiing and hockey, tend to cause more problems than warm weather sports.

Dr. Juan C. Martinez, 54, a pediatric pulmonologist and director of the pediatric pulmonary program at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, calls this type of sports “asthmagenic.”

“Any sport where you burst energy and then stop tends to exacerbate this condition,” he said. “Soccer, football, tennis — all sports where you do a lot of running and then stop.”

Martinez said the condition is very manageable.

“It’s probably one of the easier forms of asthma to treat,” he said, noting it can be treated with medications such as Singulair and Advair.

Athletes also can reduce the chances or severity of an attack by warming up before exercise and cooling down after it, says Fine.

It’s important to get a diagnosis by a pulmonary specialist, as the condition is often over-diagnosed, say Fine and Martinez. The best way to diagnose the condition is with a pulmonary function test, which measures different lung volumes.

“Difficulty breathing can come from many other places, heart problems, vocal chord dysfunction, obesity, being out of shape,” said Fine.

With team tryouts now starting, doctors call for parents to be aware of their children’s breathing issues, especially if there is a family history of asthma. Exercise-induced asthma can be easily confused with not being well conditioned.

“At the beginning of the season they are out of shape, but if they’re getting conditioned and they are still having trouble, it’s a red flag,” said Martinez.

Mauricio Fortune, 12, plays soccer for West Pines United and suffers from the condition. It’s a challenge, but it doesn’t dissuade him.

“I love the game, it’s a good challenge and I always have fun doing it,” he said.

Mauricio has been around soccer since he was a toddler. His parents would take him to watch his older sister play, and noticed something strange in his breathing while he played with the ball.

“He would cough as he tried to run, you would see him take deep breaths, like he needed a lot of air,” said his father, Scott Fortune.

Mauricio, who practices soccer six days a week for two and a half hours a day, takes his inhaler, nasal spray and takes Xopenex, a medication that prevents bronchospasms, prior to any practices.

“It’s a challenge but the way the medical field is now, a lot of players have problems and they work through them,” said his father. “I feel that if he has it, we’ll work through it and he’ll be fine.”

Fortune, 46, said that the most important thing for parents is to take their children to a specialist who can prescribe the right medicine.

“It’s been like a roller coaster ride,” he said. “As I parent I wouldn’t want my child to have to take any medicine, but you have to deal with the cards you’ve been dealt, and it’s worked out.”

Resources

To learn more about asthma and how to manage the condition, go to www.lung.org/lung-disease/asthma/

Read more Health stories from the Miami Herald

  • Skin Deep

    FDA warns about not using Expression as a filler

    It never ceases to amaze me how some people can take injections so lightly. Yes, they are cosmetic and non-invasive, but these treatments require the training and skill only an experienced dermatologist, plastic surgeon, facial plastic surgeon or oculoplastic surgeon possess. Every week I have at least one patient that comes to me to correct filler injected by an inexperienced or inartistic doctor.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Staying safe: </span>Research indicates sunscreen is hurting the oceans.

    Environment

    Study: Sunscreen may harm the sea life

    It’s a crowded Sunday at the 14th street section of South Beach.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">AFTER AN ACCIDENT:</span> A former paddleboard competitor and bodybuilder, Melina Cherry, who runs SUP the Workout in Coconut Grove, first tried stand-up paddleboarding after a car accident left her with a serious neck injury. She teaches students, from novice to experienced, different paddling techniques and conditioning exercises to help get them in shape.

    Fitness

    Indoor stand-up paddleboard class in Coconut Grove is a first

    Indoor stand-up paddleboard class teaches the proper strokes and gives you quite the workout

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category