There are over 2 million Canadians currently living with asthma, a chronic disease of the airways that makes it difficult to breathe, resulting in symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness.

Many individuals who have asthma also have allergies, which can trigger symptoms of asthma. Some of the most common allergens include dust, mold, pollen and animal dander, as well as things like outdoor air pollution, cigarette smoke, certain medications, and even exercise.

When engaging in physical activity, people tend to breathe through their mouths as opposed to their noses. This means that you are inhaling cooler, drier air. The muscle bands that are around the airways are sensitive to change in temperature, and they contract as a result, causing the airway to become narrow which then triggers symptoms as mentioned above. Generally, exercise-induced asthma happens within 5 to 20 minutes after physical activity.

Many people with exercise-induced asthma often wonder if they should stop being physically active, and the answer to that is no. However, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, does recommend speaking to a healthcare professional about your symptoms, as doctors can provide patients with preventive steps on how to avoid or reduce symptoms associated with asthma so that you will be able to maintain normal levels of fitness.

The first thing Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends doing is avoiding any known triggers. It’s also a good idea to keep track of your asthma symptoms by writing them down in a journal. Seeing it on paper can often help you determine what some of the contributing factors are, and it will guide you towards making any necessary changes. If you are unsure as to what allergen, if any, is causing your asthma, then you can request a referral to an allergist. An allergist will be able to perform what’s known as a skin test to figure out what you are allergic to.

If you’ve gone through all of the aforementioned recommendations but are still having difficulty, Dr. Ali Ghahary will prescribe patients with asthma inhalers or bronchodilators to help open the airways and give patients the ability to feel as though they can breathe better. Some of these inhalers work by providing quick relief of asthma symptoms, while others work over time.

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