Exercise-Induced Asthma test

Children and young people with asthma or who experience ‘asthma-like’ symptoms during exercise may be referred for a test called the Exercise-Induced Asthma (EIA) test.

The test aims to assess if exercise will induce asthma symptoms. This page from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) describes what to expect when your child is booked for an Exercise-Induced Asthma (EIA) test.

Many of us will experience a feeling of shortness of breath or become hot and sweaty when we exercise, which is normal. However, for those who suffer with exercise-induced asthma, the airways will not respond in a normal way to exercise.

Children and young people who suffer with exercise induced asthma may complain of very severe shortness of breath, difficulty to breathe, coughing or chest tightness. For known asthmatics, they may feel they are unable to take part in physical exercise.

What is exercise-induced asthma?

If your child suffers with exercise induced asthma the airways can become inflamed and will narrow this is known as bronchoconstriction. The child will experience the symptoms mentioned above.

Any physical exercise can cause bronchoconstriction. However, it is more commonly seen in vigorous exercise when taken outdoors. This is because the cold air and exercise causes an irritant affect in the airways.

Do I need to bring anything to the test?

You should receive a letter with test instructions or via MyGosh, this will also contain information regarding medication usage before the test. Please bring your child’s asthma medication to the test.

For the exercise test, your child should wear shoes that they can run in, ideally a pair of trainers. They should also wear comfortable clothing.

What happens during the EIA test?

The physiologist will explain the test in more detail on the day. We will ask for your permission (consent) to perform the test. If your child has any medical problems, please tell us about these. If required we will confirm that your child has stopped medication for the test before we start.


The person bringing your child for the test should have ‘Parental Responsibility’ for them. Parental Responsibility refers to the individual who has legal rights, responsibilities, duties, power and authority to make decisions for a child. If the person bringing your child does not have Parental Responsibility, we may have to cancel the test.

What does the EIA test involve?

We will start by carrying out a breathing test called ‘spirometry’ before the exercise test. This is to assess your child’s baseline lung function. Learn more about spirometry and other lung function tests. Next, we will put a saturation probe on their finger or head to measure their heart rate and oxygen levels.

For this test we will ask your child to run or walk fast on a treadmill. Two physiologists will perform the test. The speed and grade of the treadmill will be controlled by the physiologist. The aim is for your child to be exercising at a high level.

After the exercise is finished, your child will repeat the spirometry test at various time intervals. This is to assess for airway narrowing as a result of the exercise.

Your child may require an inhaler during the test to reverse the narrowing in the airways triggered by the exercise. If required we will give them salbutamol (a short-acting bronchodilator medication) via a spacer device. Spirometry will be repeated to see if the medication improves airflow.

Once this has been completed and the physiologist is happy that your child has recovered from the test, you will be able to go home.

Are there any risks?

EIA tests carried out in hospital are very safe – the physiologists are experienced in performing the test.

Your child’s baseline spirometry results will be assessed and, in some circumstances checked with a respiratory consultant before starting the exercise test.

A reliever inhaler will be administered if your child requires it and you will only be allowed to go home once it is safe to do so.

Please also note if your child is finding to difficult to walk on the treadmill, the physiologist may decide that it is unsafe and testing maybe stopped.

Getting the results

The results for your test will be uploaded onto our electronic patient record system for your doctor to view. If you are seeing your doctor in clinic or later that day, they will go through the results with you. If you are not seeing the doctor that day, they will still be able to view your test results and contact you if your child needs to do anything before their next appointment.

Compiled by:
The Lung Function Unit in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group
Last review date:
January 2024