Do you cough, wheeze, or get short of breath when you exercise in cold weather? You could have asthma, but you’ve got plenty of company.
Exercise-induced asthma is surprisingly common among people who work out in cold climates.
“Any exercise outdoors on a mountaintop is a culprit, but just jogging in Central Park may do it,” says Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist with Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City. Exercise-induced asthma doesn’t have to slow you down, however. With the right medications and precautions, exercise-induced asthma won’t keep you from your daily workout, or even from competing at an elite level.
Wheezing, chest tightness, and the other symptoms of exercise-induced asthma generally begin several minutes after you begin working out. For some people, the symptoms start soon after they finish exercising.
Although athletes who compete in warm-weather sports may suffer from exercise-induced asthma as well, mixing exercise and cold, dry air is especially problematic.
For many people with regular asthma, in fact, just stepping outside in frigid temperatures is enough to cause symptoms.
“Both cold air and exercise in and of themselves can trigger asthma symptoms, but doing them together is more likely to trigger an exacerbation,” says Dr. Thomas M. Leath, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.
When the air is dry – as it often is in cold climates during the winter – your lungs can become even more irritated, Horovitz adds.