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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Update

Air Date: Week of

Living On Earth’s Diane Toomey reports about asthma’s connection to the Olympic games.


TOOMEY: Olympic athletes are not always the picture of health. In a study of all Americans who participated in the 1998 winter Olympics, more than 22 percent said they took asthma medication or had been diagnosed with the condition. It's thought that breathing cold air might trigger asthma when the airway is cooled and then re-warmed. Another theory is that the loss of fluids from the airway, which happens in cold weather, can spur an asthma attack. Participants in Nordic combined skiing, cross-county skiing, and speed-skating were most at risk, with nearly 61 percent of those Olympians reporting asthma conditions. Does having asthma affect performance? Well, that's unclear, but what is known is that about 11 percent of Olympians who had asthma took home a medal. That's compared to 18 percent who didn't have asthma and won the bronze, silver, or gold. That's this week's health update. I'm Diane Toomey.



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