|My inhaler in case of asthma attack.|
The Short answer is "No".
Long Answer: See Below.
Asthma (meaning gasp) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways that results in airflow obstructions resulting in wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
I suffer from asthma from childhood and I am told that I gravitated between life and death on a number of occasions when I was a baby. As is common with asthma, it sort of disappeared during my youth and I completely forgot about it. That is..until I came to Kuwait. The extreme climate and the desert dust acted as a "trigger" for my asthma and I started getting the asthma attacks. At first, it was just continuous coughing or wheezing twice a year (when the weather changed from summer to winter and vice-versa). I used to manage it with strong antibiotics and inhalers. However, the disease progressed and the asthma attacks changed from coughing to life-threating attacks where I could not breathe for an extended period of time.
I remember a few occasions when I got the attack while at home, and my wife and children watched in horror and helplessness as I stopped breathing, desperately gulping for air. I started carrying the inhaler everywhere I went and my wife made sure that it was always in my pocket before I left the house.
Asthma, as a disease, cannot be cured. Once you have it, you will carry it with you to the grave. All we can do is understand the trigger points (i.e. what causes the asthma?) and then try to manage it. Different individuals have different trigger points. Mine is dust and cold.
I had resigned myself to a life of inhalers, and uncontrollable coughing through the remainder of my life. That is..until I started running.
Asthma was not on my radar when I started my fitness journey. I started running and resistance workouts because I wanted to get in shape. However, after a few months into workouts, I realized that I was not getting any asthma attacks. I also realized that I could drink cold water or iced drinks and not end up gulping for air.
What exactly happened?
According to research, increased physical activity such as running causes your body to pump more oxygen into your body. This causes the congested air-ways to expand effectively making it easier to breathe and reducing the impact of asthma when the triggers such as dust and cold travel through your body.
It is now 2 years since I last had my asthma attack. I am aware that I am not cured of it - and it will always be there. I am also aware that as long as I keep running and doing other fitness activities, I will be able to get control of my life and not be at the mercy of this disease wondering when and where it will strike - and whether that strike will be fatal or not.
This does not mean asthma patients should put on their shoes and start running. Asthma attacks can occur after physical activity, so whatever activity you decide to do (whether running or resistance training), you should approach it cautiously and slowly to build your strength and stamina. In the initial stages, you may face difficulty as the physical activity itself will act as an attack-trigger. However, by slowly building on your stamina, you will ensure that your airways expand and the asthma attacks should gradually subside. Again, your doctor will advice you on your specific condition and whether physical activity is suitable for your condition or not.
So in summary, the question I should have asked was not whether running can cure asthma, but rather:
"Can you manage asthma with running and other physical activity?"
The empathic answer to that is: "YES"!!