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Can J Appl Physiol. 1995 Sep;20(3):300-14.

Exercise- and cold-induced asthma.

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  • 1Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation Studies, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg.


Exercise- and cold-induced asthma are commonly recognized respiratory disorders. The asthmatic response includes several factors contributing to airway narrowing, and thus increased airway resistance. These include airway smooth muscle contraction, mucus accumulation, and bronchial vascular congestion as well as epithelial damage and vascular leakage. The etiology for these disorders is nonantigenic. The primary stimulus is probably a combination of airway cooling and drying (leading to hypertonicity of airway lining fluid). Symptoms generally do not occur during the stimulus period (e.g., exercise) itself. This protection may in part be due to increased catecholamine levels during exercise. The early phase response, which occurs 5 to 15 min poststimulus, may be mediated through a combination of (a) direct influences, (b) vagal reflexes triggered by airway sensory receptors, or (c) responses to mediator release. Spontaneous recovery occurs within 30 min to 2 hrs. There is usually a refractory period of about 1 to 2 hrs during which responses to further stimuli are attenuated. This may be due to depletion of histamine and other mediators. As well, prostaglandin release (mediated via LTD4 which is released during exercise) inhibits further airway narrowing. A late phase response has been reported 4 to 10 hrs poststimulus in some patients. These reactions are accompanied by a second release of histamine and other mediators that cause inflammatory responses and epithelial damage. However, the exercise dependence of this response is debated.

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