Description and Possible Medical Problems

You consider yourself to be quite active, but more often than not you find you start to cough whenever your heart rate gets above 80 during exercise. You may also find it hard to breathe and be short of breath at other times of the day.

Exercise-induced asthma occurs mainly in children and adults from their 20s through their 40s; I’ve rarely seen new onset exercise-induced asthma in people over the age of 30. The cough may be persistent and may last as long as you exercise or continue after the exercise session is over.

In people over 50, when a nonproductive cough is brought on by a short walk, it can be a sign of an underlying heart problem such as angina pectoris, in which narrowed vessels make it difficult for sufficient blood and oxygen to reach the heart.


Even if a person has exercise-induced asthma, I’ll almost never recommend that she stop exercising, since regular physical activity is so beneficial for your body and your general health. If you begin to cough and have trouble breathing during exercise, your doctor may recommend you carry a’ handheld inhaler such as Ventolin and take two puffs as needed. If you’re over 50 and have exercise-induced asthma, I’ll usually recommend that you undergo a complete cardiac work-up, including a stress test, to make sure that the condition is not an early sign of heart failure or angina.


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