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Background

I have bronchitis (both asthmatic and allergic). I'm allergic to pollen (among other things) and live in a place surrounded by lots of trees, plants and flowers. I love being outside: working around the yard, exploring nearby trails with my dog, etc..

During this time of the year I can smell the Acacias (I'm specially allergic to those) and the pollution from the passing trucks. I'm starting to get bronchitis just by walking the dog for 30 minutes in the morning.

Problem

I used to practice Muay Thai, but I can't any more (health related issues), so I haven't done any real physical exercise in 5 years. I need to start getting fit again, because I'm getting old and fat, and I want to make sure my health stays in good shape.

I tried running, but since I haven't done it for so long, the bronchitis starts in the first 5-10 minutes. My legs are fine, my heart rate is fine, my lungs are not.

Question

How can I get fit and improve my cardio (lungs)? The easiest way would probably be running, but it's extremely difficult for me. I don't want to get buffed, I just want to make some exercise.

Update

Just to clear something, because I have both allergic and asthmatic bronchitis, my problem isn't only the pollen allergy. The asthmatic part makes running/cycling/whatever a pain. In short, after 5 to 10 minutes of running I already have difficulty breathing because my lungs don't "open" as they should.

Another update

Answering to some questions placed in the comments: I have suffered this condition since I was a baby, from what I know. I never smoked (I'm actually allergic to tobacco smoke). I don't live in high altitude, but it's a very humid area, and my condition got worse when I moved here. Not sure if I feel better when away, will have to wait for the next holidays. My wife has no difficulty breathing.

Yesterday my motorbike didn't want to start, so I ended up pushing it uphill for 50 meters to the garage. Had a bronchitis crisis, so I had to sit down for a while to calm down. I have one inhaler but try as hard as I can not to use it because it causes tachycardia. Actually, riding my motorbike is good for my bronchitis, I believe it's because of the air flow.

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    If you experience chronic bronchitis, you may need to seek the advice of a respiratory therapist, who can instruct you on breathing techniques to utilize while exercising to open your airways. Because chronic bronchitis can damage your lungs, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and to practice breathing techniques when exercising to minimize damage. link1: livestrong.com/article/405595-bronchitis-exercise link2:webmd.boots.com/cold-and-flu/features/exercising-when-sick and interesting article: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26715973 – bantandor Mar 2 '16 at 10:37
  • @bantandor Very interesting comment. My doctor never told me that, I guess I'll ask for a different opinion soon. Great links, thank you very much! – Cthulhu Mar 2 '16 at 10:41
  • I'm no expert on bronchitis, but you can get masks that should at least prevent any allergy issues. Just google "running pollen mask". – Andy P Mar 2 '16 at 16:44
  • @AndyP Thanks for the answer, I didn't know this and it's a good idea. However, I've updated my question with more details. – Cthulhu Mar 2 '16 at 17:15
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    As with Batandor's answer, discuss it with your doctor. If they can't answer your questions, get a reference to a doctor that can. My wife's allergy / asthma specialist had her do some treadmill running to judge how bad the exercise aspect is for her. She controls the allergies with medication. – Sean Duggan Mar 2 '16 at 17:59
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First off, you should go see your doctor and discuss getting a steroid prescribed, something like QVAR. That have you have one inhaler makes it sound like you only have a rescue inhaler, and for the severity of your lung issues you are a clear candidate for continual treatment.

From the Global Asthma Report:

Avoidable asthma deaths are still occurring due to inappropriate management of asthma, including over-reliance on reliever medication rather than preventer medication.

As a physician friend of mine is quick to point out, most asthma deaths occur in people who have rescue inhalers on them, know they have asthma, and have managed to keep it under control for decades with rescue inahalers. And then they die, despite all of that.

Your two paths look something like this:

  1. Get your asthma under control with a preventer medication, like QVAR, although there are other options you can discuss with a physician or nurse practitioner. Beyond asthma specific medications, talk to your provider about allergy medications as well. You may even be prescribed a small batch of prednisone to keep handy, as it can honestly be the difference between life and death in severe cases. Again, talk to your provider about this.

  2. Exercise only in a climate controlled and air filtered room. HEPA filters and an air conditioner can go a long way towards keeping the air in such a state that it doesn't aggravate your condition. During exceptionally challenging seasons (spring pollen, a bitterly cold winter, etc) you may end up using this as well.

But you really shouldn't need to live in a bubble. There are good, safe medications out there that can dramatically increase your quality of life. You can spend 30 minutes with any decent medical provider and have a new lease on life.

  • Thanks for the answer. You make it sound much more serious than it is, because I do not have asthma, I have bronchitis. However, you have good points: I only have a rescue inhaler and I should consider prevention medication. I will talk to a doctor and see how that affects my ability to run (or another exercise). – Cthulhu Mar 10 '16 at 9:05
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I too have asthma, though I don't think mine is quite as servere as yours. My asthma is primary provoked by cold weather so it is (only) a real problem during the Winter - during the Summer, I can normally live well without any sorts of medication. (I also occasionally get an asthma attach for no apparent reason, so I expect that I'm allergic to something as well - unfortunately I don't know what it is yet)

I use two different sorts of inhalers - see the details below. One I use regularly morning and evening and the another on demand and when I do sports.

When using my inhalers correctly I can participate in cardio sports like everybody else. I usually run 40-50 km/week and commute to and from work 150 km/week. I run 3-4 marathons a year as well as 15-20 half-marathons. As long as I'm careful with the inhalers, I have no problems at all.

I would recommend you contact a specialist in asthmatic diseases. I have yet to find an ordinary doctor that knows enough to handle the complex cases correct. The special interest group for asthmatic diseases in Denmark states that well-treated asthma should not limit your life and sport activities...

By the way, did you know that an estimated 25% of all elite athletes are affected by asthma?

Please note that some sorts of asthma medications will require a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemptions)


My Medication

The first - Symbicort Inhaler - contains budesonide and formoterol. Budesonide is a steroid that reduces inflammation in the body. Formoterol is a bronchodilator that relaxes muscles in the airways to improve breathing. Without this, I fell like I have a very tight belt around my chest. I take two doses morning and evening and with that I basically don't feel the asthma during the day. Most people can do with just a single dose twice a day, but that does not seem to be enough for me - if I forget a dose, I'm in for a very bad day. (I can see that different countries have very different views on the use of Symbicort: in Denmark it is common to use this for long term asthma, whereas it seems to be used by exception in the US...)

The second inhaler - Bricanyl Turbohaler - contains just terbutaline. Terbutaline is a fast-acting bronchodilator (which again relaxes muscles in the airways to improve breathing). I primary use this before and after I run or bike. How much is needed depends both of speed and length of the exercise. Without this, I will cough my way though most sorts of hard sports.

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