News and Events

Good News for Teens with Asthma: Keep Exercising

Publication Date: 9/19/2021 1:30 PM

Physician researchers at Rambam Health Care Campus find that with the right treatment, asthmatic teens can perform physical activity without complaining of difficulty. The treatment includes an inhaler that contains bronchodilators and steroids.

L) Professor Lea Bentur; R) Dr. Ronen Bar-Yosef. Photography courtesy of Rambam HCC.L) Professor Lea Bentur; R) Dr. Ronen Bar-Yosef. Photography courtesy of Rambam HCC.

Many teens with asthma usually complain of difficulty breathing during strenuous exercise, and some are exempt from physical education classes. A new study conducted at Ruth Rappaport Children's Hospital at Rambam Health Care Campus on adolescents with asthma showed that with the right diagnosis and targeted treatment, a significant reduction in complaints about exertion can be achieved. In some participants, the complaints stopped completely.

The study was led by Professor Lea Bentur, former Director of the D. Dan & Betty Kahn Foundation Pediatric Pulmonary Unit, and Dr. Ronen Bar-Yoseph, Director of the D. Dan & Betty Kahn Foundation Pediatric Pulmonary Unit. It was recently published in the scientific journal Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, and demonstrates that innovative drug therapy can help asthmatic teens to exercise fully.

The study involved 93 girls and boys aged 12-18 who complained of shortness of breath during exercise and were referred to Rambam for pulmonary function tests to see if they had exercise-induced asthma. "While they were at Rambam, we offered them the opportunity to participate in a study designed to test the effectiveness of a combined inhaler that contains both bronchodilators and short- and long-term steroids," explains Dr. Bar-Yoseph. "Those whose stress test results were positive—that is, those who were found to have exercise-induced asthma—received the drug for one to two months.”

It turned out that about half of the complainants had no medical issue. Their stress test result was normal, indicating that the complaints may have been due to poor physical fitness. 44 participants were diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. “In the first phase, the effect of a combined bronchodilator and steroid expander given once a day was tested; the researchers wanted to check the result of the treatment – in the short term after 15 minutes, and in the long term, where the treatment is given every day for 30-60 days.”

At the follow-up visit, for which 35 study participants returned, the vast majority of subjects (94%) had no complaints of difficulty during exercise, and their stress tests were normal. In only two of the participants did the stress test not work properly despite the treatment.

“It turned out that a solution could be provided for most teens who complain of difficulty during exertion,” says Dr. Bar-Yoseph, adding that, “those who suffer from asthma can be offered effective treatment.”

Dr. Bar-Yoseph emphasized that along with drug treatment there are also non-pharmaceutical solutions to reduce the phenomenon of shortness of breath on exertion, including prolonged warming up before exercise, breathing through the nose or through a cloth that covers the mouth and nose to reduce airway irritation, and adherence to a balanced diet and a healthy weight.