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Why Athletes Get Asthma

Posted in Asthma 18 Aug, 2015

You'd think that athletes, particularly world class athletes, would be immune to most illnesses, their bodies functioning at the highest level of fitness and all that. But asthma seems fairly prevalent in the sporting world. Is this because they have gotten fit to overcome childhood asthma, or because they exercise all the time, bringing on or exacerbating existing asthma?

Let's take a look at some science.


Egg Before Chicken

Children with asthma, and their parents, may be more concerned with their health. So from an early age they take care of their bodies, eat well and manage symptoms. They may be more inclined to take up sports to help with this.

Getting fit can help asthma. There are all kinds of suggestions that bran, cardio and weight-bearing exercise have a positive impact. So we could hypothesis that a 10 year old with asthma is generally fitter and more sporty, simply because the non-asthmatic child hasn't had to think much about their health.


Chicken Before Egg

High-level athletes are prone to asthma. The condition is so common that doping authorities have cleared inhalers like salbutamol - so long as the doses aren't excessive. Research shows that 70% of the British Swimming Squad has a form of asthma, whilst a third of Team Sky cyclists struggle for breath. Nationally the average is 8-10%, so what's going on?

Some experts believe it's a different form of asthma they are experiencing. Instead of allergic bronchial wheezing, the chest tightness is brought on by rapid breathing. Weather and locality conditions can make this worse. In areas where the air is thin or very cold and dry, asthma symptoms increase. For example, the cold air of a cross-country ski or mountain cycle path can trigger a wheeze, and the chlorine-heavy atmosphere of a swimming pool changes air composition too. I've certainly felt out of breath just stepping into the local pool. The air seems thick in there.

This is such a prominent train of thought that during the 2008 Beijing Olympics tests were carried out on the atmosphere to see if the conditions might affect the athletes.


Great Role Models

Whether athletes had asthma from an early age or developed it from their sport, no matter, because they are fantastic role models.

Paula Radcliffe and Aimee Wilmot both suffer from asthma and each rose to the top of their sports. What better reason to be famous? It certainly beats the likes of violence-promoting musicians or a notorious a sex tape (yes we're talking to you, Kim).

Athletes actively portray that asthma does not need to be life limiting. Research shows that athletes who had asthma as children often believe they no longer suffer, but when they take the test they are still classed as asthmatics.

Perhaps it shows us that asthma can be managed via sports? More research is needed but the future is looking healthy.


If you suffer from the effects of asthma we can help. We offer a number of asthma medications such as flixotide to help you treat the symptoms. Visit our asthma page to see what treatment is best suited for you.

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