Minor Ache or Major Problem? 6 Symptoms Exercisers Should Pay Attention To
Symptom: A Dry Cough
Scenario: You begin coughing during your cardio routine -- about 20 minutes into it every time.
Your downplay: All that breathing through my mouth! I need a water bottle.
Doctors' double-take: You could have adult-onset asthma, also called reactive airway disorder (RAD). "We usually associate wheezing with the condition, but a dry, persistent cough during exercise can also be a symptom," says Elizabeth Paras, MD, an emergency-room physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. In fact, coughing during your workout, when your lungs are working hard, could be your only symptom. Nobody has pinpointed a single cause of RAD, but airborne irritants such as secondhand smoke and mold seem to play a major role. Left untreated, RAD can sabotage your workouts by stopping you from going all out -- or worse, send you gasping to the ER.
What to do: Start clocking that cough. "If it always happens when you hit mile three on the treadmill or once your heart rate reaches 160, say, then it's probably not incidental, and you should have your doctor give you a simple, noninvasive pulmonary function test," Dr. Paras says. If you have asthma, you will be given antiallergy meds containing antihistamines to control your symptoms or, if your condition warrants it, an inhaler that will let you control the problem and start powering through your workout again.
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