A new survey finds that 78% of asthma patients have undiagnosed exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) and that only 22% of asthma sufferers have heard of EIB. The results suggest that there are many patients who have symptoms but do not have a name for what they are experiencing, and are potentially unaware that there is preventative treatment. The survey of public, asthma, and healthcare providers, also finds that 46% of adults and 26% of children with asthma limit or even avoid activities because of exercise-induced symptoms.

Symptoms of EIB include shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, noisy breathing, and difficulty taking a deep breath. “Many people don’t realize they have EIB because they think these are their body’s normal responses to working out,” says Timothy Craig, DO, professor of medicine and pediatrics, Penn State University College of Medicine.

While doctors recommend pre-treatment with a short-acting beta-agonist (SABA) like albuterol for managing EIB symptoms, patients who have frequent, severe EIB need to consult their physician to evaluate the status of their underlying asthma. Symptoms of EIB in patients with asthma can be a sign that their asthma is not well controlled. Patients may need to initiate or increase their daily long-term control therapy.

“These findings underscore the need for physicians to continue educating patients about how to properly use albuterol when it comes to the prevention of exercise-related respiratory symptoms, because it’s different from their regular asthma routine,” says Craig. “While patients are used to taking their quick-relief inhalers in response to flare-up of symptoms, when it comes to exercise, it is crucial that they learn to use it beforehand to prevent an attack from coming on.”