Background: Exercise-triggered asthma (ETA) develops when physical activity triggers asthma symptoms during or directly after exercise. In patients prone to symptoms of supra-esophageal reflux, exercise may trigger gastroesophageal reflux (GER), resulting in such symptoms.
Aims: To determine the prevalence of abnormal pH in patients with ETA and to determine whether acid suppression improves symptoms in ETA patients.
Methods: We performed a randomized double-blind trial of rabeprazole versus placebo in the treatment of patients with ETA. Patients underwent treadmill protocol to determine their VO(2 max). Next, pH testing was initiated while undergoing a 30-min treadmill program exercising them at 65% of their VO(2 max). They were subsequently randomized to rabeprazole or placebo for 10 weeks. At the end of 10 weeks, exercise testing was repeated.
Results: A total of 31 patients completed the study (20 asthmatics, 11 non-asthmatics). Twenty-two out of 30 (73%) subjects had abnormal pH studies. For all subjects, rabeprazole improved symptoms more than placebo (P = 0.03). The association was stronger in the pH-positive group (P = 0.009).
Conclusion: Acid reflux is common in ETA patients. Many patients with exercise-related respiratory symptoms are misdiagnosed as chronic asthmatics. Exercise-related symptoms improve with the use of acid suppression. This study suggests that ETA patients may benefit from acid suppression.