EIB, or Exercise Induced Bronchospasm, is an ailment that results from the shrinking of a person’s air passages when they exercise, making it hard to breathe. Patients with EIB have difficulty exercising for long stretches; even as long as 30 minutes can bring on symptoms of an attack.
The symptoms of EIB are similar to those of asthma and include wheezing, pain, and tightness in the chest, coughing, and shortness of breath that can range from mild to severe. Usually, symptoms occur within 20 minutes of exercise.
EIB is usually caused by breathing in cool and dry air compared to the air in the lungs. Patients who have chronic asthma as well as EIB often find their symptoms increase during the spring and fall, during the same time allergies tend to manifest. This can make it tricky to diagnose EIB in some patients.
The first step in treating EIB is to achieve a proper diagnosis. The doctor will sit down with the patient and discuss the symptoms experienced and then will perform a complete physical examination with breathing tests. These tests allow the doctor to use a spirometer or peak flow meter to measure the air removed out of the patient’s lungs.
Once diagnosed, a course of treatment can be planned. Usually, this treatment will involve medication using a bronchodilator, mast cell stabilizer or anti-leukotriene medication. Each of these works differently; bronchodilators and mast cell stabilizers are taken shortly before exercise and last anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, depending on the medication. Antileukotriene medications are taken daily and last for 24 hours at a time.
In addition, taking 15 minutes before and after exercise to warm up and then cool down can help to reduce symptoms. Patients should avoid exercising in extreme cold or when they suffer from respiratory ailments or allergies.