Prevalence of respiratory symptoms in an athlete population

Respir Med. 2003 Aug;97(8):955-63. doi: 10.1016/s0954-6111(03)00123-9.


This study aimed to look at the prevalence and type of respiratory symptoms experienced by athletes and to assess the possible influence on the perception of symptoms of training duration and environment. A group of 698 athletes (107 with diagnosed or self-reported asthma) filled out a questionnaire on their respiratory condition. They exercised either in cold air (n = 176), dry air (n = 384), humid air (n = 95) or mixed dry and humid air (n = 43). Past exercise-related symptoms reported by athletes were breathlessness (48.7%), phlegm production (22.8%), wheezing (15.6%), cough (15.2%), and chest tightness (7.4%). Only 25% of asthmatic athletes reported having current exercise-induced symptoms of breathlessness, 21.7%, wheezing and 17.4%, chest tightness; current exercise-induced symptoms of breathlessness, wheezing or chest tightness were also reported, respectively, in 38.9%, 3.6% and 2.7% of athletes without a diagnosis of asthma. The perception of exercise-induced symptoms was not influenced by the duration of training or environment. In conclusion, (1) a minority of asthmatic athletes report troublesome respiratory symptoms with exercise, (2) breathlessness is not more frequently reported in asthmatic athletes than in those without such diagnosis while cough and wheezing are more common in asthmatic subjects and (3) the prevalence of respiratory symptoms is independent of training environment and duration of training.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Dyspnea / epidemiology
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Quebec / epidemiology
  • Respiration Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sports*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires