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Ester Marsh column: Asthma and exercising

Unfortunately, asthma is an increasingly common lung disease in the U.S. I personally had asthma over 20 years ago, and due to wearing the mask while exercising (when it was mandated), my asthma came back. I had to use my inhaler every cardio class I taught and dealt with coughing spells at night due to my return of asthma. However, since I am vaccinated and the mandate is lifted, I do not wear a mask and have not had any issues with my asthma, nor have I used my inhaler. Wearing a mask while exercising triggered my asthma but there are all kinds of other triggers can cause an asthma attack:

• Tobacco smoke — definitely firsthand but also second hand.

• Dust mites — you can’t get rid of dust mites, but you can keep your house clean, get rid of carpets and have hardwood or vinyl floors (and mop them regularly), get rid of any down-filled pillows or comforters, which are a true feast for dust mites. Wash your bedding regularly and in the hottest water setting.

• Outdoor air pollution — A big one for the increase in asthma disease.

• Cockroach allergen — The cockroach itself and their droppings can cause an asthma attack. Asthma or not, you don’t want them in your house anyway.

• Of course, our hairy family pets — if severe, maybe look into a different pet such as a non-poisonous snake, lizard or turtle.

• Mold — Any moist area can grow mold. Make sure leaks are fixed and areas are well-ventilated. Use a de-humidifier for trouble areas.

• Smoke from fires of wood and more, even a campfire can set off an asthma attack.

• The flu and colds can also trigger asthma attacks.

• Emotional stress, cold air, medicines such as aspirin or beta-blockers, sulfites in food or wine can also trigger an asthma attack.

• Exercise can trigger an asthma attack however; with increased conditioning this will fade or become better with time and dedication.

These triggers are not limited or in order of importance.

Let’s go over some warning signs.

Early warning signs can be:

• Breathing changes, sneezing, moodiness, headache, runny/stuffy nose, coughing, chin or throat itches, vomiting, feeling tired, dark circles under eyes, trouble sleeping, and poor tolerance for exercise.

Asthma symptoms that an episode is occurring can be:

• Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest.

Severe asthma symptoms can be:

severe coughing, wheezing shortness of breath or tightness in the chest, difficulty talking or concentrating, walking causes shortness of breath, breathing may be shallow and fast or slower than usual, hunched shoulders, nasal flaring, neck area and below ribs moves inward with breathing, gray or blush tint to skin, beginning around mouth.

If you think that you, or your child suffers from asthma, your first step is to go to your doctor and let them diagnose you or your child. Your doctor will give you the necessary treatment and/or medicine if you are suffering from asthma.

Working at the YMCA in fitness, I have come in contact with asthma patients numerous times. I am convinced the better shape you are in, the better you can deal with your asthma, or even eliminate it. My son Andrew had (has) asthma and became national champ 2000M steeplechase in 2016. So with proper treatment (and exercise), the sky is the limit.

But, before you exercise, or start exercising, talk to your doctor. As I mentioned, exercise could also be a trigger for an asthma attack. Your doctor will inform you about the do’s and don’ts. Understanding of what triggers your (or your child’s/ spouse) asthma attack, anyone who suffers from it will benefit from exercise.

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the JF Hurley family YMCA.

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