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  yr) and 10 healthy controls (31  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.