Exercise induced wheezing

I have just been diagnosed with exercise induced wheezing for which I've been given Ventolin inhaler. Having reached the grand old age of 35 I'm a little confused that I've suddenly become asthmatic. My symptons are just a feeling (rather than pain) in what I would describe as my windpipe (the bit between my adams apple and cleavage -wishful thinking!!).

I'm booked in at the asthma clinic at my doctors, but as I know absolutely nothing about the subject I would welcome any comments from runners rather than medical professionals who don't exercise.


  • how about a medically qualified runner who uses a ventolin inhaler?

    exercise induced wheezing is a reasonably common form of asthma. It is supposed to be more common in runners because we are out in the cold air. I did hear one chest physician say that the reason we don't diagnose it very often in adults is because most adults don't exercise!

    You mention the feeling in your windpipe, do you get wheezy as well? It may be that your doc is using the ventolin as a diagnostic test, if it gets better with the inhaler then there must have been some narrowing of the airways. See how you get on with the inhaler.

    There are loads of runners with asthma, i am quite happy using my ventolin if i need it. But actually i tend to rely more on a long acting version of this inhaler called salmeterol which i take twice a day regularly. If i stay fit then i don't need the ventolin.

    Let us know how you get on with the inhaler and good luck.
  • Thanks very much for your reply Eamonn - it's nice to know I'm not alone and I can still run.

    I don't wheeze, just the feeling in my "windpipe". I had thought it was due to the cold, but I felt the same after my last trip to the gym, and today I haven't exercised at all (unless Xmas shopping counts!) but have had the feeling all day.

    For what it's worth I don't feel any better after using the inhaler, and the readings on the peak flow monitor are the same every time I use it.

    Just a thought.... could stress be a contributory factor? Life's a touch difficult at the minute, so maybe that's not helping.
  • Hmmm, dosen't sound like exercise induced asthma.
    Stress can cause a tight feeling in the neck, throat and shoulders during running. Try dropping your shoulders and consciously relaxing the neck muscles when you run.
    If that doesn't work then back to your gp.
  • On the old forums we had a long thread on this topic started by a nice lass from the USA who had wandered on to the RWUK site by mistake - it turned out that she had an interesting mix of longstanding asthma, anxiety, and possible sensitivity to allergens in the air.

    Amazed there aren't more responses to your question, Helen, since lots of people here, including some of the near-elites, have asthma and use Ventolin or similar.

    I don't have asthma, but I agree with Eamonn that if you don't wheeze, Ventolin (used correctly - many people can't use inhalers very well) doesn't make a difference, and your peak flow is stable (out of curiosity, what number does it read?), your symptoms are unlikely to be due to asthma, and a funny feeling or tightness in the windpipe area is often stress-related. This is, of course, a significant health problem in its own right and merits hands-on medical attention if you can't resolve it by dealing with whatever is hanging over your head.

    Best wishes - hope it works out well!

    Cheers, V-rap.

  • I have been diagnosed with this Helen. I used to get it in the summer on track but seemed to 'run' through it, a bit like warming up. Once the cold weather arrived and we hit the streets I just couldn't shift it. It wasn't terrible, I could still run but slower and with an accompanying cough.

    My doc has prescribed Ventolin. I use it before I run. I also run with the inhaler as I sometimes, but rarely, get an occurance en-route. I have isolated this to be when I pass fumey old cars on junctions!

    As I swim a lot and don't suffer at all and never have in the pool I guess it must be either the cold or air allergens that cause it. I have to say, in my long runs, I have achieved a whole new lease of life.
  • LizzyBLizzyB ✭✭✭
    Hi Helen - I had what sounds like exactly the same symptons as you about 4 years ago - my peak flow was also quite low, so I was prescribed a ventolin inhaler by the Doc. I wasn't too happy about this as I was convinced I didn't have asthma but thought I'd give the inhaler a try - it worked a bit, but it could have been a placebo effect.

    Anyway ... about six months later I went back to the Dr. to get another Ventolin inhaler, saw a different doctor who told me that she didn't think I had asthma and if I did have a problem, it was stress, not exercise induced and she didn't think I needed an inhaler. She subtly advised me to sort out what was causing the stress ... which I did (took a few months though...)... and haven't suffered from any tightness since.

    Don't know if this helps, but it certainly seems to tie in with what our medical experts are saying!
  • Thanks folks for your messages.

    I have to say I was thinking along the same lines i.e. that it possibly wasn't asthma. I am going to the asthma clinic at my GP's today so I should find out a little more.

    V-rap - my peak flow reading is always about 450. My doctor told me, no her computer told me, that it should be about 495 for my BMI.

    Funnily enough I don't get the feeling when I'm actually running, just afterwards. I maintain that whilst I'm out running I don't worry about things (God knows what I do think about, I really have no idea, perhaps I'm too busy nosing at other peoples gardens etc!!).

    Unfortunately I can't eliminate the stress factor all together as I've had several bereavments over the last 4 months, and my mum-in-law has just been diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma added to which they told us last night she has the beginnings of Parkinsons Disease. I am the only relative who lives locally all the time and I seem to worry for everyone else.

    Anyway, thanks again for your responses and I'll let you know how I get on later.
  • Hi - I'm another asthmatic!
    I used to be awful when I was a kid but now I'm older I only really get wheezy when I'm doing excercise - so I take ventolin beforehand to stop it. Interestingly enough if I forget to take the ventolin and go for a run I am fine. If I forget the ventolin, go for a run and REMEMBER I haven't taken it - then I totally stress out!
    My personal experience of asthma is not really a 'feeling' in my windpipe - more of a constriction of my whole chest and losing the ability to take a deap breath - kinda like trying to breath through a straw. But I guess everyone's different.
    Good luck with your clinic!
  • Hi Helen,
    I've been having similar problems to those you describe. I get what feels like a spasm in my windpipe at first and this gradually increases to a tightening feeling. I'm 37 and have been running for 17 years having completed may half marathons and 6 full marathons. I just got these symptoms out of the blue one day whilst running. The feeling never comes on straight away in a run but after at least 10 mins, but on a long slow run it can take as long as an hour to appear. I did also get some wheezing on faster runs or when the weather was very cold. I saw my GP who, after checking my BP and finding it normal, said he thought I had exercise induced asthma and prescribed me a Salbutamol inhaler. I've been using this now for a couple of weeks and haven't had any symptoms on shorter runs but have still felt a much milder sensation in my windpipe on longer ones. I was interested to read what the others were saying about stress as I have suffered from this in the past. I too couldn't believe I could have asthma after all this time so maybe stress is a factor for me too.Perhaps I've just been pushing myself too hard. Anyone else have any ideas ?
  • Hi folks

    The good news is the nurse reckons it's nothing to do with asthma, but stress (as in "I think you're stressed up to your eyeballs"!!). At least it means in the fullness of time it will go away. As the nurse's daughter is an athlete she didn't even tell me not to run as she knows how not exercising affects her daughter.

    To celebrate I went on a run this morning and as I felt so good I did 5 miles instead of the normal 3 which just shows what the right attitude can do for you.

    Anyway, I'm trying very hard to keep my cool (anyone know where I can buy chill pills from?!). Thanks everyone for your words of wisdom.
  • Hi

    i too have been wheezing after exercise. I used to have asthma as a child but have recently had the spirometry tests and i only improved 2% with salbutamol.

    i have been told i amnot asthmatic and my wheezing and shortness of breath is probably allergen based.

    so today before my 10k race i took my antihistamine tablet but within a few hours of stopping my wheeze and shortness of breath returned. Salbutamol clears it immediately but it returns a few hours later.

    I went to ER last time as i got quite bad and my peak flow was almost non existant but they say its not asthma.

    any ideas??

    Should i revisit my GP??


  • John - I would get myself hold of a light blue inhaler for exercise induced asthma and give it a go and see if things improve.

    Wheezing from allergy is pretty much asthma - not medical enough to be able to tell differnece even if there is one.

  • Hm, interesting reading all of this. I've been running for some years and have a couple of marathons under my belt but I'm what I call 'one-paced'. I plod along! I've just started some interval training and am trying to increase my pace to 7.30 min in short bursts but I got really wheezy.

  • The wheezy breathing even had a squeak to it. Could this be asthma. I was assuming it was lack of fitness or the fact I carry a stone in weight too much!!


  • Incase it is asthma, it's best to get checked over. I had extremely bad asthma as a child, but as I got older it subsided. I wouldn't worry too much, but undetected asthma can be highly dangerous, especially if you enjoy trial running away from civilization.

    Old thread.

  • ive been running for a few years now but had many injury problems so it has been stop start really, anyway, about 6 weeks ago i finally got my achilles and calf sorted out and ive been running 2 or 3 times a week since then with no problems, but, in the last 3 or 4 runs i have noticed a slight wheezing during running, i dont feel any constriction in my chest or windpipe areas ive just got this squeaking wheeze when i breathe. i am 47 and about 2 stone over weight which is coming down slowly, i doubt this is asthma so i will just keep an eye on it for a few weeks, maybe i have a bit of stress too.

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