Coughing and shortness of breath are enough to put anyone on high alert for COVID-19 these days.

However, these symptoms are common in people with exercise induced asthma, which can make breathing uncomfortable and difficult.

But Dr. Sandra Hong, an allergy and asthma specialist with Cleveland Clinic, said there’s typically a pattern with this type of asthma.

“Very frequently when you have an athlete and it’s exercise induced asthma, you’ll only notice the symptoms when they’re actually doing their sports,” she said. “It will typically come on within 5 minutes but people can have it at any point in time with their exercise and as they stop exercising, their symptoms should get better.”

Hong said people with exercise induced asthma often experience coughing, wheezing and chest pain or tightness five-to-ten minutes into a workout.

She said people often describe the feeling like they’re trying to breathe through a straw.

Symptoms typically resolve once an athlete settles down within about 60 minutes. However, if worrisome breathing problems persist after exercise, she recommends seeking emergency care.

“If they’re continuing to have chest pain or continuing to be short of breath that should be evaluated. If they recover and they’re feeling better I still would ask them to see their primary care physician or an allergist or pulmonologist, the reasons for that are for it to be evaluated.”

Hong said asthma-related symptoms are often treated with medications that can get people back to peak performance.

Copyright 2023 by Cleveland Clinic News Service. All rights reserved.

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