Gasping for breath during a workout may be more than just a sign that you’re out of shape. It could also indicate a condition called exercise-induced asthma, according to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine.
"Exercise-induced asthma occurs when someone has shortness of breath, gets winded easily, has wheezing and sometimes even a cough shortly after exercise begins," said Dr. John Rogers, professor of family and community medicine at BCM.
Asthma occurs when there are spasms of the smooth muscles in the breathing tubes that lead to a blockage of the airways. It can cause shortness of breath, coughing and a wheezing noise when breathing out. A feeling of tightness in the chest is another common symptom.
Patients with exercise-induced asthma experience these symptoms, but not on a regular basis. Instead, they occur during exercise or when they have a cold or viral infection, said Rogers.
However, the condition is manageable and people are still able to perform at a very high level athletically with proper treatment, he said.
Treatment usually includes using an inhaler 20 to 30 minutes before exercise. The inhaler helps relax the smooth muscle and can last for up to four hours.
There is not one exercise routine that is better for the condition than another. Rogers recommends those with the condition do other things to manage it such as staying away from cigarette smoke, staying indoors when pollen or other allergen counts are high if you have allergies and avoiding exercise when you have cold symptoms. Getting the flu shot each year is also recommended to help maintain healthy lung function.
Although having exercise-induced asthma does not necessarily mean there are asthma symptoms at all times, asthma does exist in some form, said Rogers.