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

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