—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.
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.
I’m giving 110 percent, I’m fine," said O’Boyle.
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.
case, she wasn’t rowing in freezing waters, but she was
was surprised by it," said O’Boyle, 20. "I thought
asthma was something you had as a kid."
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 until she began the rowing
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."
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
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.
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.
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."
has kept up her six-day-a-week rowing, but now uses an
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.
says some endurance and cold weather sports, like skiing and
hockey, tend to cause more problems than warm weather sports.
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."
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
said the condition is very manageable.
probably one of the easier forms of asthma to treat," he
said, noting it can be treated with medications such as
Singulair and Advair.
also can reduce the chances or severity of an attack by
warming up before exercise and cooling down after it, says
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.
breathing can come from many other places, heart problems,
vocal chord dysfunction, obesity, being out of shape,"
many school 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
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.
Fortune, 12, plays in a local youth soccer program and suffers
from the condition. It’s a challenge, but it doesn’t
love the game, it’s a good challenge and I always have fun
doing it," he said.
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
would cough as he tried to run, you would see him take deep
breaths, like he needed a lot of air," said his father,
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
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."
46, said that the most important thing for parents is to take
their children to a specialist who can prescribe the right
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."