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Assessment and prevention of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction


The assessment of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) in athletes requires the measurement of forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) before and after vigorous exercise or a surrogate of exercise such as eucapnic voluntary hyperpnoea (EVH) of dry air or mannitol dry powder. Exercise testing in a laboratory has a low sensitivity to identify EIB, and exercise testing in the field can be a challenge in itself particularly in cold weather athletes. The EVH test requires the subject to ventilate dry air containing ∼5% CO2 for 6 min through a low-resistance circuit at a rate higher than that usually achieved on maximum exercise. A ≥10% reduction in FEV1 is a positive response to exercise and EVH and, when sustained, is usually associated with release of inflammatory mediators of broncho constriction. Another surrogate, mannitol dry powder, given by inhalation in progressively increasing doses, is used to mimic the dehydrating stimulus of exercise hyperpnoea. A positive mannitol test is a 15% fall in FEV1 at ≤635 mg and reveals potential for EIB. Mannitol has a high specificity for identifying a clinical diagnosis of asthma. Once a diagnosis of EIB is established, the athlete needs to know how to avoid EIB. Being treated daily with an inhaled corticosteroid to reduce airway inflammation, inhaling a β2 agonist or a cromone immediately before exercise, or taking a leukotriene antagonist several hours before exercise, all inhibit or prevent EIB. Other strategies include warming up prior to exercise and reducing respiratory water and heat loss by using face masks or nasal breathing.

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