Unusual Asthma Symptoms
Exercise is a common trigger for asthma and may cause symptoms such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing in 80% to 90% of people with asthma. The asthma symptoms usually start about 10 minutes into the exercise or 5 to 10 minutes after completing the activity, although some people experience symptoms about four to eight hours after exercise. Exercise-induced asthma may affect all ages, but it's most common in kids with childhood asthma and young adults. All athletes, from weekend warriors to professionals and Olympians, can be affected by exercise-induced asthma.
For most asthma patients, exercise-induced asthma is treatable and preventable, allowing children and adults with asthma to fully participate in sports and exercise. Regular exercise is beneficial for the heart, circulatory system, muscles (including breathing muscles), and mental health. However, regular exercise is not a cure for asthma.
Exercise-induced asthma is diagnosed by a pattern of asthmatic symptoms prompted by exercise. When the diagnosis is unclear, it can be confirmed in a doctor's office by performing breathing tests at rest and after exercise.
Health Conditions That May Worsen Asthma
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD is a common condition caused by the regurgitation (reflux) or backwash of stomach acid into the esophagus from the stomach. At times, the acid even may regurgitate into the back of the throat and reach the lungs. GERD usually -- but not always -- is associated with a burning discomfort under the breastbone, called heartburn, which occurs mostly after meals or when lying down. In some people the symptom of acid reflux is not heartburn. Instead, they experience coughing, wheezing, hoarseness, or sore throat.
The presence of acid in the esophagus or the passage of acid into the lungs (aspiration) may cause the bronchial tubes to constrict (bronchospasm), causing wheezing and coughing that may not respond to medications for asthma. Bronchospasm related to acid reflux tends to occur more frequently at night as a result of lying down. Interestingly, GERD is common among patients with asthma. Some doctors believe that asthma itself or asthma treatments in some way make people with asthma more susceptible to acid reflux. For example, theophylline, an oral asthma medication (bronchodilator) that's occasionally used to treat asthma, may promote acid reflux by relaxing the specialized muscles in the esophagus that normally tighten to prevent regurgitation of acid.
In people with nighttime asthma or difficult to control asthma, treating acid reflux may help relieve coughing and wheezing. Treatment of GERD involves elevating the head of the bed, losing weight, avoiding spicy food, caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes. Proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec, Protonix, Aciphex, Prevacid, and Nexium are potent inhibitors of production of acid in the stomach and are effective treatments for asthma aggravated or caused by acid reflux. Rarely, surgery is performed to prevent acid reflux for people with severe GERD that does not respond to medications.