What is the Difference Between Exercise-Induced Asthma and Chronic Asthma in Children?

Child with exercise induced asthma

Over 25 million Americans have experienced asthma. Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease, chronic inflammation of the lungs resulting in difficulty breathing or wheezing. Asthma can be a frightening disease for anyone, including parents witnessing their child have an asthma attack. During an asthma attack, the inflammation in the lungs can limit airflow through the lungs. If your child is experiencing an asthma attack with severe wheezing or not breathing, call 911 for medical attention immediately.

There are two primary forms of asthma, chronic asthma, and exercise-induced asthma. Chronic inflammation of the lungs and airways, or chronic asthma, has a broad array of triggers and can lead to ER visits, missed school days, and hospitalization. The second type is exercise-induced asthma which is when symptoms only present during or after exercise. About 70-90% of patients with asthma have chronic asthma, and the remaining patients have exercise-induced asthma.

Diagnosing and Monitoring Asthma

To diagnose a child’s asthma, a healthcare provider will perform a pulmonary test. Pulmonary testing is done with the use of a peak flow meter that gauges the severity and progression of asthma over time. Parents will take home the peak flow meter and administer the test on their child to monitor the asthma and collect data on what triggers the asthma.

Chronic Asthma

Chronic asthma requires parents and children to be diligent and consistent with their treatment plans. Parents and children should closely monitor symptoms and try to identify potential triggers. Common chronic asthma triggers can be cold weather, pollen or seasonal, pollution, chemicals, or smoke. Children with fewer triggers or avoidable triggers may not require any daily treatment and should carry a bronchodilator. Bronchodilator is a type of inhaler which provides quick relief from asthma symptoms. For persistent cases, chronic asthma can be treated with a daily inhaler. Children who use a daily inhaler may need to carry a bronchodilator inhaler with them in case they have an unexpected asthma attack.

Exercise-Induced Asthma

Exercise-induced asthma may take longer to be diagnosed. Often, symptoms are commonly misinterpreted as fatigue or overexertion. Parents should schedule an appointment with their healthcare provider if they notice their child frequently exhibiting wheezing, shortness of breath, headaches, rapid fatigue, and coughing. Typically, children with exercise-induced asthma will need to treat their asthma immediately before and after exercise. Exercised-induced asthma patients may have longer recovery times after exercising, sometimes taking up to one hour to return to normal breathing patterns. In addition, their asthma symptoms may exacerbate in cold weather.

Treatment options for exercise-induced asthma include short-term relief inhalers or control medications. Typically these treatment options are administered before and after exercising. To control exercise-induced asthma, some patients find warming up with stretching and light walking prior to strenuous exercise to help reduce the onset of asthma symptoms. Children with exercise-induced asthma should not stop playing sports or exercising. Children should continue these activities and monitor their asthma to see if there are environmental triggers or endurance triggers.

Asthma and Daily Life

Initially, asthma might feel challenging to manage, but asthma is a very manageable disease with time and proper treatment. Children with chronic or exercise-induced asthma can lead healthy active lives with proper management and treatment. It is crucial for parents to regularly monitor asthma frequency, triggers, and symptoms. As children get older, the asthma triggers can change or may go away altogether.

The physicians and healthcare providers at Newport Children’s Medical Group are here to help you understand your child’s unique healthcare needs and potential asthma triggers. Our staff can develop manageable asthma treatment plans to ensure your child’s safety. Schedule an appointment with one of our pediatric pulmonary specialists at the Newport Children’s Medical Group to develop and carry out an asthma treatment plan today.