If your asthma medication leaves you gasping after a workout, you may need a second opinion about your diagnosis, a new study suggests. According to the research, athletes who report asthmatic symptoms could have an additional—or altogether different—issue: laryngeal obstruction.
For the study, scientists recruited 88 serious athletes (defined as those who trained at least 10 hours per week) who were given a full clinical asthma test after experiencing respiratory problems during exercise.
Many of the athletes were diagnosed with asthma and given the appropriate medications; however, a large percentage continued to report breathing problems while exercising. Using a test called a continuous laryngoscopy, scientists watched athletes’ larynx throughout their work outs. Based on their observations, the authors discovered that exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction was behind a surprising number of cases.
Out of the 88 study participants, 31 were diagnosed with exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction. This condition can exist independently of asthma, but has similar symptoms. For this reason, the authors recommend that athletes be tested for both asthma and laryngeal obstruction when they complain of respiratory problems during exercise.
Based on their findings, the authors also realized that some athletes were medicating unnecessarily. Out of the group, 53 participants regularly took asthma treatment. Of those, nearly two-thirds "did not have pulmonary function or bronchoprovocation evidence to support a diagnosis of asthma," the study authors wrote.
The study, "High Prevalence of Exercise-Induced Laryngeal Obstruction in Athletes," will appear in a future issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.