Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction

Drugs. 2002;62(12):1725-39. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200262120-00003.


Exercise-induced asthma, or more appropriately, exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), occurs in 80 to 90% of individuals with asthma and in approximately 11% of the general population without asthma. EIB is characterised by post-exercise airways obstruction resulting in reductions in forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV(1)) of greater than 10% compared with pre-exercise values. The mechanism of EIB remains elusive, although both cooling and drying of airways play prominent roles. Cold, dry inhaled air during exercise or voluntary hyperventilation is the most potent stimulus for EIB. Inflammatory mediators play central roles in causing the post-exercise airways obstruction. Diagnosis of EIB requires the use of an exercise test. The exercise can be a field or laboratory based test, but should be of relatively high intensity (80 to 90% of maximal heart rate) and duration (at least 5 to 8 minutes). Pre- and post-exercise pulmonary function should be compared, and post exercise pulmonary function determined over 20 to 30 minutes for characterisation of EIB. A pre- to post-exercise drop in FEV(1) of greater than 10% is abnormal. Approaches to treatment of EIB include both nonpharmacological and pharmacological strategies. A light exercise warm up prior to moderate to heavy exercise reduces the severity of EIB. More recently, studies have supported a role for dietary salt as a modifier of the severity of EIB, suggesting that salt restrictive diets should reduce symptoms of EIB. Short acting, inhaled beta(2)-agonists constitute the most used prophylactic treatment for EIB. However, antileukotriene agents are emerging as effective, well tolerated, long-term treatments for EIB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma, Exercise-Induced* / diagnosis
  • Asthma, Exercise-Induced* / drug therapy
  • Asthma, Exercise-Induced* / etiology
  • Bronchoconstriction*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cold Temperature
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / adverse effects*


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary