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Asthma

Allergies or asthma?

10/09/2008

Question:

Whenever I jog outside, I have difficulty breathing and develop a lot of mucus. How can I tell whether my symptoms are of allergies or asthma? What is the distinction between the two problems? How can this be treated, so I can continue jogging?

Answer:

It is possible that both conditions are contributing to your symptoms. These symptoms can be related to exercising regardless of whether you are allergic or non-allergic. If the symptoms only occur outdoors and not when you exercise indoors then it is likely not related to exercise per say but rather to environmental exposures. Another caveat is whether it only occurs when you are exercising outdoors in cold weather; then one would have to consider cold-induced asthma. Without have more details about your condition here are some likely scenarios. If you are allergic and are exercising outdoors when pollen or mold counts are high, then this could certainly cause the symptoms you are experiencing. It is also possible that your symptoms could be caused by exercising on days with poor air quality due to air pollution caused by ozone or are running along streets with high stop and go traffic resulting in exposure to particulate matter. In order to get a better handle on what is going on, you need to see an allergist who can perform proper allergy skin tests to determine your allergic status which will identify potential outdoor triggers that could be causing these symptoms. He/She should also be able to perform proper pulmonary function tests to determine if you have asthma exacerbated by exercise or if you have a different condition referred to as exercise induced bronchospasm. Depending on the diagnosis, will determine the most appropriate treatment which should allow you to continue to keep doing what you enjoy most which appears to be jogging outdoors.

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Response by:

Jonathan   Bernstein, MD Jonathan Bernstein, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati