Mike is sitting in his athletic training suite feeling sorry for himself. He moved from Southern California to play soccer at Northern Minnesota University (NMU) as a highly recruited player. All was well until he got sick with a miserable cold. He soon recovered, but now he finds himself with a lingering dry cough and difficulty catching his breath any time he exerts himself, which is every day! He also notices it has gotten worse as the weather has become colder. To make things worse, Mike feels, and looks, like he's out of shape, so his coach has been criticizing him for dogging it.
A few days later, Mike relays his story to JP, the head athletic trainer at NMU. "I'm thinking my cold is coming back, or something else is wrong with me. When I'm just hanging out, like now, I feel fine. But as soon as I start to run I get winded and can't stop coughing." JP listens to Mike's breathing sounds with his stethoscope, but hears nothing abnormal. So he tells Mike to come back as soon as the symptoms return during soccer practice. Twenty minutes later, Mike is back in the athletic training suite, audibly wheezing, coughing, and short of breath. The team physician, Dr. McInnis, happens to be there and performs a complete physical exam. He also does pulmonary function tests with Mike using spirometry, including a forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1). He instructs Mike to take a maximal inhalation and then exhale as forcefully and maximally as possible into the spirometer.
Based on his findings, Dr. McInnis tells Mike he thinks he is experiencing cold-induced bronchoconstriction (also called cold-induced asthma), which is made worse by exertion. The doctor explains to Mike that his recent upper respiratory infection probably inflamed his airways, making them hypersensitive and reactive to irritants, such as cold and physical exertion. When Mike exercises in the cold, autumn afternoons of Minnesota, his sensitive airways temporarily bronchoconstrict, causing the symptoms he is experiencing. Asthma is almost always a reversible condition. Dr. McInnis prescribes two puffs of an albuterol inhaler, to be used 10 minutes before a bout of exercise in the cold.