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Asthma in sport

Introduced: 1996 / Updated: 1998 / Reviewed: 2021

Last updated: 2 December 2021


You must refer to the Requirements for All Sport and Physical Activity to understand your overall compliance responsibilities. The information below is additional only. 

Asthma in sport information

All students with asthma should be encouraged to exercise regularly for health and general wellbeing. These students should have an Asthma Action Plan (prepared in partnership with their doctor) as well as easy access to their asthma reliever medications at all times. 

A person with asthma may experience some or all of the following

  • Tightness in the chest.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing.
  • Coughing.

Common triggers and exercise-induced asthma

Every student's asthma will be different, and they will react differently to various factors (triggers) on a day to day basis. Be aware that factors such as sudden changes of temperature, cold air, windy days, high pollen levels, poor air quality and hot, humid days may also trigger asthma symptoms. Vigorous exercise should be avoided if the student has cold or flu symptoms, or is recovering from a recent asthma exacerbation.

Exercise can be a very common trigger for asthma; particularly if it is prolonged and strenuous activity such as a cross country race. Developing asthma symptoms during or after exercise is known as exercise-induced asthma (EIA) 

Even a student with well-controlled asthma may experience occasional symptoms when exercising. Many students get short of breath when they exercise, but as soon as they stop exercising, the breathlessness improves. With EIA the symptoms will tend to get worse a few minutes after a student stops exercising, and may continue for 15-30 minutes without treatment.

Asthma symptoms during exercise may be a sign of poor asthma control and if this is occurring then a medical review of the student's asthma management should take place. The aim of good asthma management is to allow the student to participate fully in normal exercise. With appropriate medication, most people with asthma can undertake even vigorous exercise.


It is important to ensure the student's day to day asthma is generally well controlled and they have an up to date written Asthma Action Plan (see also requirements for Individual Health Care Plans in the Requirements for All Sport and Physical Activity). Well controlled asthma means the students is able to carry out normal day to day activities without having asthma symptoms, and does not need to use their reliever medication more than two times a week to manage symptoms. If a student's asthma is not well controlled by these standards, they require medical review. If advised by their doctor a student with EIA may need to use their reliever medication 10-15 minutes before starting exercise.

Staff should always ensure that there are rest periods and a warm-up and cool down appropriate to the intensity of the planned activity. Two different types of warm-up have been shown in research to be effective in reducing EIA:

  • 5-7 x 30 second sprints with 30-60 seconds rest.
  • Brisk walk/slow jog for 20-30 minutes.

You may alternatively choose a group game as a warm-up activity for all students.