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Am Fam Physician. 2011 Aug 15;84(4):427-34.

Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction: diagnosis and management.

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St. Luke's Hospital and Health Network Primary Care Sport Medicine Fellowship Program, Bethlehem, PA 18017, USA.


Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction describes the narrowing of the airway that occurs with exercise. More than 10 percent of the general population and up to 90 percent of persons previously diagnosed with asthma have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Common symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness with exercise; however, many athletes will present with nonspecific symptoms, such as fatigue and impaired performance. Spirometry should be performed initially to evaluate for underlying chronic asthma, although results are often normal. An empiric trial of short-acting beta₂ agonists or additional bronchial provocation testing may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. Nonpharmacologic treatment options include avoiding known triggers, choosing sports with low minute ventilation, warming up before exercising, and wearing a heat exchange mask in cold weather. Short-acting beta₂ agonists are recommended first-line agents for pharmacologic treatment, although leukotriene receptor antagonists or inhaled corticosteroids with or without long-acting beta₂ agonists may be needed in refractory cases. If symptoms persist despite treatment, alternative diagnoses such as cardiac or other pulmonary etiologies, vocal cord dysfunction, or anxiety should be considered.

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