When exercising, there is always a risk of injury regardless of the sport. Ligaments can be sprained, muscles can be strained, bones can be broken. In some cases, some individuals are even more susceptible to injuries due to their mechanics, flexibility, and strength.
However, some individuals are born with more chronic ailments that require life-long management. Asthma is one of those ailments. Though asthma can be a frustrating part of any individual’s life, it doesn’t have to be a debilitating disease that sidelines anyone that wants to be a physically active individual. By understanding asthma and how to manage each case specific to the individual, activities like running don’t have to seem so daunting.
First Things First, what is Asthma?
Asthma is a disease that affects the airways, or bronchial tubes that carry air to and from your lungs. In cases of asthma, these airways become sore and swollen. In this state, the airways become more sensitive to certain environmental triggers, these triggers can cause the airways to become narrow, causing less airflow to and from the lungs. The root cause of asthma can be due to both hereditary and environmental factors.
While asthma is a serious lung disorder, the symptoms of asthma can vary between person to person. Some common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive coughing in the morning or at night
- Chest tightness
Anatomy of an Asthma Attack
In extreme cases, asthma can be exacerbated by environmental triggers that can prolong symptoms, causing airways to become dangerously narrow. During these attacks, the bronchial tubes become inflamed and swollen. Inside these tubes, mucus is secreted through the bronchial membranes, causing airways to narrow, allowing little to no airflow in or out of the lungs.
Symptoms of asthma can occur in response to several different factors. Some of these triggers include:
- Smoke from tobacco products
- Dust mites
- Cold weather
- Pet dander
Medications for Asthma
The most common treatments for symptoms of asthma are rescue inhalers (short-term relief) or preventative medications/inhalants (long-term prevention). The most common rescue inhaler contains albuterol, a short-acting beta-agonist that will help relax the muscles of the bronchial tubes and reduce the effects of an asthma attack, making it easier to breathe.
These inhalers are used to combat symptoms of asthma in real-time, as they are occurring. Preventative inhalants for long-term treatment are used to treat symptoms, but also contain corticosteroids that will reduce swelling in the bronchial tubes and make it less likely to react to triggers that would cause intense symptoms.
Running with Asthma
Though exercise can be a trigger for asthma, running can be less risky for your respiratory health if you make a plan to avoid undesirable symptoms. For a safe run, it is important to follow these helpful tips:
Talk with your doctor:
Before beginning a running routine, it is important to consult your doctor with any questions or concerns regarding your asthma symptoms. They can also guide you on medication changes, treatments, and provide helpful tips to have the safest running routines possible.
Do a slow warm-up before your run- getting your body ready for the run with stretches, dynamic movements and static movements.
Make sure to have a rescue inhaler on hand
Planning and bringing along an inhaler during a run can be incredibly helpful if you begin to suffer from any asthma symptoms on your run. And since rescue inhalers are pretty small, it can be stowed in a pouch or hooked around a runner’s belt.
Listen to your body:
Paying attention to how you’re feeling during your run can clarify normal symptoms of exercising while also being aware of symptoms of an impending asthma attack.
Check the weather
If your symptoms of asthma are triggered by cold or dry air, it is important to check the weather before each running session to avoid environments that can be triggering.
Running can be greatly beneficial for cardiovascular endurance and can also help control and reduce symptoms of asthma. Some benefits of running with asthma include:
- Improve lung function
- Improve oxygen uptake/lung capacity
- Reduce airway inflammation
Running with a Mask
Mask used to combat symptoms of asthma are used to reduce the chances of symptoms being triggered by pollen or dust particles, extreme environmental triggers like extreme and extreme cold weather. Running masks can also be used as an anti-allergy and limit exposure to other triggers that can make asthma worse.
And in the time of COVID-19, these masks can help you breathe clean, pure air while also protecting yourself and others from your saliva droplets. Some of the best masks to be used for those trying to reduce symptoms of asthma while running include:
N99 Military Grade Respirator Mask
This mask comes with a helpful filter that removes pollen, bacteria, and other triggers from the air while breathing in and out. This mask is primarily used by individuals suffering from allergies from pollen or who live in high pollution areas.
This mask looks like the simple cotton face coverings you can see individuals all over the world wearing to reduce chances of COVID exposure. These masks are used in individuals avoiding triggers of dust mites or pollen. While it does not have a filter to help breathe a purer air, it does greatly reduce the chances of inhaling unwanted particles that can trigger symptoms of asthma.
Dustproof PM2.5 Mask
Like the N99 mask, this mask comes with two filters to reduce respiratory infections. It also comes with a valve to open and close to prevent moisture retention. These masks are used for outdoor running or in the industrial setting and protect users from pollen, pollution, dust, chemicals, and other fumes associated with everyday life.
Respro Sportsta Mask
This mask for asthma runners looks like something straight out of a Batman movie. It covers most of the user’s face, hooking behind the neck rather than behind the ears. It can cause a feeling of tightness on the nose so you may have to readjust it to make the best fit.
Airofit Breathing Trainer
For asthma patients, the inspiratory muscles are typically weakened, often resulting in dyspnea (shortness of breath). The Airofit breathing trainer is designed to work your inspiratory muscles through respiratory training, activating your breathing muscles and making them stronger. Depending on the degree of asthma, you should always remember to consult your doctor about respiratory training. Read more on the science behind Airofit:READ HERE
There are plenty of masks that can be used to prevent different triggers of asthma. Whether its pollen, dust, cold/hot dry air or smokey, polluted air, each mask works differently.
Also, running masks with no filters are predominantly used to filter out physical particles of dust and pollen. While mask with valves and filters are used to filter out pollution, smoke and other chemicals, providing clean, pure air to breathe in.
Find the Plan (or Mask) that Works Best for You
When living with asthma, it’s important to understand your triggers, physical or otherwise, that will exacerbate your symptoms. Developing a running plan with your doctor can greatly improve your physical endurance while also limiting symptoms of asthma.
Whether you prefer to wear a mask while running or avoid environments with your triggers altogether, it is important to choose what is best for you. Like finding the right mask for running, your asthma plan has to be specific to you and no one else.