DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 45-year-old male who has never smoked or taken drugs, and I don’t have a family history of any ailments. I have been an athletic individual all my life. I spent 20 years in the military and never missed a day of physical training.

My problem is that if I exert too much energy in my exercise, after the event I find myself having a coughing frenzy and gagging from the coughing. It lasts up to two hours. What do you think I have? – C.T.

ANSWER:
I think you have exercise-induced asthma. As many as 15 percent of exercisers have it.

Your symptoms are classic. Cough, shortness of breath and wheezing are asthma signs. And with exercise-induced asthma, the attacks almost always come on after the exercise has stopped.

One explanation is that the increased breathing of exercise dries the airways, and dry airways are prone to constrict.

With a few simple tests the family doctor can confirm the diagnosis. One is to put you through an exercise challenge in the office by having you run on a treadmill or pedal a bike for a minimum of four minutes and preferably for eight minutes.

If it turns out you do have exercise-induced asthma, you can prevent it by warming up before you exercise. Running in place at a leisurely clip is one way to warm up. Sip a cup of coffee before exercising. Coffee can dilate airways.

As for treatment, there are so many effective asthma drugs that you are bound to find one or two that stop these attacks. Many are administered through an inhaler. Some stop an attack in progress. Others are used to prevent attacks.

You might doubt that you have asthma, since this never happens in other circumstances. That’s what makes exercise-induced asthma unique. A person can have it without ever having an attack in any other situation.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What can I do to prevent swimmer’s ear? At least that is what my doctor says I have annually after swimming much of the summer. – L.D.

ANSWER:
By using a homemade remedy, you can stop germ growth and restore the ear canal’s acidity. The acid environment of the canal prevents bacteria and fungi from residing there.

Make a small amount of an eardrop solution with one-third white vinegar and two-thirds rubbing alcohol. The rubbing alcohol dries the ear. The vinegar restores the canal’s normal acidity.

Put one or two drops in one ear when lying on your side. Let the drops remain for a couple of minutes, and then roll over to drain them out of the ear. Repeat the drill for the other ear.

One man wrote me to complain that this formula caused him great pain. It shouldn’t, and it’s been used by many people for many years. If it does, then gently flush the ear canal with warm water squirted from a bulb syringe. Don’t use the solution again if you have a painful reaction, and be sure to see a doctor.

Don’t instill eardrops if there is a hole in your eardrum.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband and I are at loggerheads about the water temperature of our swimming pool. He likes it cold. I can’t go in it when the water is as cold as he wants. What is a proper and healthy temperature for pool water? – G.G.

ANSWER:
Water temperature should be between 82 and 86 F (28-30 C).

If water temperature is lower than 77 F (25 C), too much body heat is lost. The swimmer shivers, and energy that should be used by muscles is used to increase body temperature. Furthermore, swimming in cold water requires more oxygen for the same amount of swimming intensity that takes place in warmer water.

If the water is too warm, then body heat cannot be transferred to the water, and body temperature can rise.

Your husband must have polar bear genes. Thanks for the invitation for a swim, but I am bringing a thermometer with me. Don’t be offended.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.


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