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Asthma Inhalers and Sports

Why do so many athletes use asthma inhalers?

Drugs called beta-2 agonists, such as salbutamol, salmeterol and terbutaline, open the closed lungs of asthmatics and help them to breathe. They also increase the amount of fat in the bloodstream to increase energy sources of exercising muscles, help to preserve the muscles' store of sugar, and help muscles to contract with more force. The common inhaled asthma medication called albuterol has been shown to improve athletic performance.

These asthma medications are potent stimulants, so they could cause irregular heart beats. It is illegal for Olympic competitors to take albuterol pills. However, asthmatics need their medications, so the Olympic medical committee allows asthmatics to take these same medications by inhaler, provided that a doctor informs the Olympic committee beforehand that the athlete is an asthmatic and is taking this medication. Needless to say, there are unprecedented numbers of asthmatics registered with the Olympic committee and other authorities in sports that monitor drug use.

Checked 5/8/16

May 10th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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