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Exercise-induced Bronchoconstriction with Firefighting Contained Breathing Apparatus


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: February 2018 - Volume 50 - Issue 2 - p 327–333
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001424
Applied Sciences

Purpose Protective self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) used for firefighting delivers decompressed (cold) dehumidified air that may enhance the severity of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) in those susceptible. We investigated the effect of SCBA during exercise on airway caliber in people with asthma and healthy controls.

Methods Two exercise challenges (EC) designed to elicit EIB were performed on separate days within 1 wk. The initial challenge was breathing room air (ECRA) with workload titrated to elicit >60% estimated maximum voluntary ventilation. The exercise intensity was repeated for the second challenge using SCBA (ECSCBA). Forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) was measured before and up to 20 min after exercise. Bronchial hyperresponsivenss (BHR) to the hyperosmolar mannitol test was measured in the subjects with asthma.

Results Twenty subjects with current asthma (mean [SD]: age 27 [6] yr) and 10 healthy controls (31 [5] yr, P = 0.1) were studied. The percent fall in FEV1 after ECSCBA was greater in the mannitol-positive asthma subjects (14.4% [15.1%]) compared with mannitol-negative asthmatic subjects (1.6% [1.7%]; P = 0.02) and controls (2.3% [2.3%]; P = 0.04). The FEV1 response was not different between ECRA and ECSCBA (0.49% [5.57%]; P = 0.6). No BHR to mannitol (n = 7) was highly sensitive for identifying a negative response to ECSCBA (negative predictive value 100%).

Conclusions The SCBA does not increase the propensity or severity for EIB in subjects with BHR. Those subjects with asthma but no BHR to inhaled mannitol did not exhibit EIB. The BHR to a hyperosmolar stimulus maybe considered a useful screening tool for potential recruits with a history of asthma.

1Thoracic Medicine, Concord Hospital, Sydney, AUSTRALIA; 2Sydney Medical School, Sydney University, Sydney, AUSTRALIA; and 3Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle, AUSTRALIA

Address for correspondence: Leigh Michelle Seccombe, Ph.D., M.Sc., Department of Thoracic Medicine, Level 7 West Concord Repatriation General Hospital, Hospital Rd, Concord, NSW 2139, Australia; E-mail:

Submitted for publication June 2017.

Accepted for publication September 2017.

© 2018 American College of Sports Medicine