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Role of respiratory heat exchange in production of exercise-induced asthma.


We have hypothesized that it is the total heat flux in the tracheobronchial tree during exercise that determines the degree of postexertional obstruction in asthma, and have developed quanititative expressions that relate these two events. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the observed responses to exercise, while our subjects inhaled dry air at various temperatures ranging from subzero to 80 degrees C in a random fashion, to those that we predicted would occur based upon calculations of respiratory heat exchange. We further determined if heat could be transferred from the inspired air to the mucosa so as to offset evaporative losses from the airways. The observed responses fell as air temperature was increased from -11 to +37 degrees C and exactly matched theoretical predictions. Above 37 degrees C, the observed response exceeded predictions, indicating that it was not possible to provide sufficient heat per se in the air to offset the vaporization of water. However, when small amounts of water vapor were added to the inspirate at high temperatures, bronchospasm was virtually abolished and the response again closely matched theoretical expectations. We conclude that the magnitude of exercise-induced asthma is directly proportional to the thermal load placed on the airways and that this reaction is quantifiable in terms of respiratory heat exchange.

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