TEXAS (KIAH) – Studies show the long-term effects of exercise often improve breathing and lung function. But if hitting the gym leaves you coughing and wheezy, you may have exercise-triggered asthma. 

“People feel chest tightness, people wheeze, people cough and it’s often when they’ve been exercising, if they’ve been at a constant rate, they’re doing okay. Then, the bottom drops out,” explained pulmonologist Dr. Mark Mallard of Baylor Scott and Health. 

He said exercise-triggered asthma usually hits about 15-20 minutes into a workout or right after you stop exercising. It is often triggered by allergens in the air, as well as the difference in temperature between the air in your throat and the air outside.

Dr. Mallard said the key to preventing an attack is medicating beforehand. 

“Two puffs of a quick-relief medicine right beforehand. And oftentimes, you can do your workout and not have to worry about what happens when I come back inside to this warmer air and I stopped exercising,” he said.

The next question: Are you asthmatic or just out of shape? Dr. Mallard said the difference often comes down to how long it takes people to recover. Those with asthma take much longer to catch their breath than those without.